In and out…in and out…in and out…
This is something that we do every day. It seems simple, but it is actually quite complex. If we stopped doing it, our life would end. Did you know that the average adult takes 20,000 breaths in a day? According to Advent Knows, a company that helps with snoring and sleep solutions, though breathing is largely a subconscious function, it is complex enough to affect the whole body. Subsequently, if you have good breathing, you have good health.
Without this constant subconscious effort to breathe in and out, we die. That’s why I love Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray constantly. If we don’t pray constantly, our souls die, just like our bodies die if we stop breathing. A lot of us go around with live bodies but dead or dying souls because we aren’t paying attention to our spiritual breathing: prayer.
The sense of Paul’s command here is to never stop exchanging your wishes for God’s wishes. The word for constant means to be regular but intermittent, like a persistent cough. Though coughing has negative connotations in connection with our breathing, I love the picture this evokes. A nagging cough doesn’t stop. All day, intermittently, at all times and in all places, the cough can start.
As beings created in the image of God, we are designed for continual and constant relationship with Him. We maintain that connection through prayer, demonstrating a continual dependence on and submission to Him–an exchange of our wishes for His.
That is a tough one. Why? Because deep down in our sinful flesh we want what we want when we want it. Seeking Him at all times will reveal that truth and cause us to long for His wishes more than our own, but it will require a constant refining process that is worked out through prayer.
I love an example of this from Scripture. I think this man is possibly one of the “unsung” biblical heroes of this kind of prayer as he isn’t talked about much in sermons except in relation to the more well-known guy on the scene, the apostle Peter.
Cornelius was a military man. Acts 10:1 tells us that he was a centurion, a man who commanded around a hundred men in the Roman defense force. He was a man of power and influence who wielded power and control with a sword. And yet…
He knew where true power comes from. In Acts 10:2 we see he was “a devout man who feared God with all his household.” He was generous to the poor, Jewish people in particular, and he prayed to God continually.
His continual prayers were blessed one day when an angel appeared to him in a vision, telling him to send for Peter the apostle.
The angel didn’t even say what Peter was coming for, but Cornelius simply obeyed and had Peter brought to Him. What was the result? Peter arrived. The Spirit descended on Cornelius and his whole household, and the church was widened to include those of Gentile descent, but with a common faith in Christ.
Most of us reading this are the fruit of Cornelius’ labor of faith in prayer before God; we are Gentiles grafted into the tree of faith, heirs with him of eternal life.
That is the power of constant prayer. It is the privilege of prayer to connect continually with our Heavenly Father through the blood of Jesus and by the blessing of His Spirit living in us.
With Cornelius, we have the challenge to never stop exchanging our wishes for His wishes. In so doing, we will reap the same benefits of constant peace with God deep in our souls.
Cornelius didn’t have a cell phone, but I bet if he did, he’d be sure that the times he lifted his spirit to God happened more often than the times he pressed that home button to check his latest message. If we prayed as continually as we look at our phones, think of the spiritual life that would be bursting forth in us!
As we pray with every breath, we live by the power of His Spirit until the day our bodies give in to the curse of sin and our lungs breathe their last.
Never stop exchanging your wishes for God’s.
In and out….in and out…in and out…
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