Prayer is like breathing – spiritual breathing. This analogy came to me via J.C. Ryle: “Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension, and how a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.” Ryle’s statement is based on 1 Thess 5:17:
“Pray without ceasing.”
Often 1 Thess 5:17 is seen as a command. And it is a command.
But more than a command, the passage teaches us the necessary nature of prayer. You see, if we can “pray without ceasing,” it must mean that prayer is by nature something that can be done without ceasing. To put it in terms of our analogy, prayer is like spiritual breathing. Therefore, we are commanded to “spiritually breathe” (i.e., pray continually).
Breathing is a necessary function to physical life. So it is with spiritual life. A person who does not pray is a person who does not possess spiritual life. God sustains faith through prayer just as life is sustained through breathing. Prayer is necessary for the Christian, just as breathing is to the human.
Of course, Paul did not mean that we need to be on our knees 24-7, otherwise we would violate other commands in Scripture. Rather, we breath as we go about our normal lives. We do not set aside time to say, “Ok, it is time to breath now.” I don’t mean to say you shouldn’t carve out a set time to pray. I just don’t think that is what Paul is getting in 1 Thess 5:17. What he’s getting at in this passage is to live by prayer.
So, in the approximately five minutes you’ve read this blog, you have taken roughly 75 breaths. However, your life would cease to exist if you did not breathe in the last five minutes. What about spiritual breathing? Are you spiritually breathing?
Charles Spurgeon once said, “I never pray more than five minutes at a time, but I never go five minutes without praying.” Sounds to me like Spurgeon spiritually breathed.
Inhale . . . exhale . . . spiritually breathe.