Praying Like Breathing

It’s safe to say that one of the most common problems pastors and ministry leaders face is prayer, and by problems I mean the nagging, guilt-ridden lack of it that gnaws at the heart of most of our people. In fact, one of the most requested prayer requests I receive from people is that God would help them pray more.

The good thing is that most Christians know they need to pray. They also know that they don’t pray as often as they should. But when a lack of prayer becomes a perpetually unchecked box on one’s spiritual to-do list, it ceases to be the very thing God provided for us as the means of communing with Him and becoming more deeply conformed to His will.

Don’t worry, this is not another article on the nature and effect of prayer as a spiritual discipline in the life of believers. For that, read “Prayer” by Tim Keller, “Recapturing the Wonder” by Mike Cosper, “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis or “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller. What I want to briefly discuss is two practical aspects of praying and why “prayer without ceasing” should become as natural as the daily conversations you have with friends and loved ones.

1. Redefine Your Ideal Moment

We should all endeavor to have daily, uninterrupted time with the Lord. Jesus made it a habit of going to desolate places to pray, so it’s a divinely inspired practice. What happens is that our ideal moment doesn’t materialize (season of life, tiredness, laziness), so we end up ignoring prayer altogether until we can get to our next ideal moment.

Dude, that’s weird.

Imagine waking up to a hurried morning with your spouse where you had to rush out the door without having any meaningful conversation. How crazy would it be for you to go the rest of the day without speaking a single word to them because you “missed your window of opportunity” that morning? It would be crazy. Which is why you send texts, make phone calls, drop emails, schedule lunches, meet for coffee, and do any number of things to keep in close communication with the other person whether you end up having any uninterrupted time or not. The ideal moment for communication is the moment in which you choose to communicate. Like you do with your spouse or a friend, you should cultivate such a mindfulness of God that the most natural thing for you to do is speak to Him. Daily. Hourly. Ceaselessly. Those are all ideal moments.

2. Return To The Source

Let me put it this way: I don’t spend time with my wife so that I walk away happy that I spent time with my wife. The act of spending time with her is simply the result of my desire for her and is the means that satisfies my longing to be face to face with the woman who loves me and who I love in return. Ultimately, my happiness with her is derived from her, and time is how I get more of her. So whether it’s a three month sabbatical, a two week vacation, a day off during the week, an hour over coffee, or a five minute chat between meetings, what matters is that my desire to see her, talk to her, hear from her and know her is being fulfilled in some constructive and meaningful way.

Obviously, not everyone has this unique place in my life (umm, thank you, Jesus), but this serves as a model for my relationship with the Lord. If I find myself at a place where what I described above is not happening, I would argue that it’s not really because I’m “crazy busy”, as much as it’s due to my lack of desire to do what I know it most right and most true for the health of my marriage. So how do I redeem my desire? Well, how do we redeem anything? By returning to the source.

What many spouses do when their marriage starts suffering neglect is to try and create special, ideal moments in the hopes of rekindling some of the connectedness that has been missing. There’s actually nothing wrong with that on one level, but it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get to the source of the problem, which is the recovering of your initial desire and first love. Think about the early days of a marriage or friendship. You needed nothing but each other’s presence to satisfy your longing to be close with the other person. Your desire for their presence was met and fulfilled by nothing more then presence itself. It didn’t matter where you were, it mattered that you simply “were.”

Don’t complicate this, brothers and sisters. Think of your praying like breathing. Redefine your ideal moments by placing them within the ordinary rhythms of everyday life so that you are constantly returning to the source of your love and desire for the one who first loved you.  

If I can serve you in any way beyond this article, please don’t hesitate to write! ronnie@substance-church.org.

 Ronnie Martin is founder and lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland & Wooster Ohio, author of Stop Your Complaining, and co-host of The Happy Rant Podcast w/ Barnabas Piper and Ted Kluck.

Ronnie Martin is founder and lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland & Wooster Ohio, author of Stop Your Complaining, and co-host of The Happy Rant Podcast w/ Barnabas Piper and Ted Kluck.