There are animals in the wild who live in environments that can kill them. Consider dolphins or whales, who, without gills, live submerged in salty waters. In order to survive, these animals must regularly rise to the surface and inhale oxygen into their mammal lungs. If these creatures fail to rise to the open air, they will drown.
Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” We were made for a life that breathes in the presence of God—for the oxygen found in His Kingdom. However, we live in a broken, fallen world that is often so far from the life-breather, the King. Like those sea creatures, we live in a world that will kill our souls unless we stay connected to the open skies of the presence of God. This is consciously practiced through what we call prayer. While we can over-complicate it, prayer is simply being purposefully aware of and engaged with the presence of God. Like sitting with a beloved friend, prayer can look like joyful celebration, mourning, asking, telling, or simply being still and quiet but available to talk and listen.
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, God reveals Himself to Moses. When Moses asks, “What is your name?” God responds, “Tell them YHWH—YAHWEH— has sent you.” The translation of Yahweh means “I am…” in other words, God tells Moses, “Tell them the all-sufficient one, everything you need, has sent you. I am.”
Interestingly, the name Yahweh spoken aloud is the closest spoken word in the Hebrew language to the natural act of breathing. Speaking the name “Yahweh” leaves the mouth open without the lips or tongue being engaged, like inhaling and exhaling. As though God said, “I am the breath of life.”
A baby’s first cry speaks the name of God.
A deep sigh or painful groan calls upon His name.
In fear, we hold our breath only to find calm when we practice breathing, our very bodies telling us “God is near.”
A joyful, peaceful inhale breathes in His grace and exhales hallelujah—praise Yah—praise God.
So how do we live in this broken, wartorn world? By regularly surfacing to the oxygen available in the open air of the presence of God. We live through prayer that reminds us that God is near, has never—not once—forsaken us, and is actively restoring all things.
Your Kingdom come on earth—in my mind, in my heart, through my hands—on earth as it is in heaven. —Selah