Wednesday, August 31, 2011


As a child I used to suffer from asthma. I can remember wheezing and struggling to breathe as my parents coerced me to swallow the two bitter pills that would help to open my bronchial tubes and allow my lungs to process oxygen again.

The thing about asthma is that it keeps you from doing things that everyone else takes for granted, like running, riding your bike, playing tag, and a lot of other physical games with other kids.

At this age I was very aware of the fact that I had inherited my asthma from my own grandmother. Hers was much worse and required her to burn some sort of incense in an ashtray and inhale the fumes to clear her lungs. To this day I can instantly recall that smell whenever I remember being in my grandmother's house.

Eventually I outgrew my asthma, but I’ve never forgotten this phase of my life. Often, it serves as a metaphor to me when I consider the sustaining power of prayer in my life.

In the New Testament we are commanded to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17), and breathing is often equated with prayer in the spiritual disciplines for this very reason. Our spiritual communication and connection with God should be a constant and never ceasing activity – just like breathing. We exhale our confession of weakness and we inhale the empowering Spirit of Grace.

This act of breathing prayer is life for us. Without breath none of us could survive very long. Prayer becomes our life line to the source of our life - Christ Himself. Breath also becomes an essential activity for anyone who runs a race, or hopes to compete in a marathon.

I point this out because Paul and the author of Hebrews often speak of the Christian life in terms of running a race.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Without great, deep, constant lungfuls of oxygen, we are unable to compete in this daily marathon of faith. Prayer is the key for us if we hope to reach the finish line.

Lately I've been thinking of this because I've started to realize that my asthma is starting to kick up again. Not the physical asthma (I've outgrown that), but the spiritual asthma has begun to slow me down. Thankfully the cure is not a bitter pill or any noxious smoke. It's simply bending the knee and taking the time to listen to that still, small voice again. Time to sit quietly in the darkened silence - and breathe.


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