Are You Breathing?

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther

I came across this mind-boggling quote in that book I’m reading on the Holy Spirit.

My first reaction was one of disagreement.  Salvation is not earned through prayer.  Duh, Martin!  Wasn’t this the guy who emphasized grace-based salvation and protested works-based salvation?  And now he’s saying we have to pray to be Christians?  Millions of people are Christians – that is, they’ve accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and believe that He alone is the path to Heaven – without engaging in prayer on a regular basis.

But Martin Luther isn’t known for being a heretic (Well, he was, but he’s not now.  Well, he is, but not by Protestants… the others will come around eventually :)).  So I gave him the benefit of the doubt and reread his quote.  Since I don’t have the original work, I don’t know the context in which he wrote this.  But I am guessing he wasn’t talking about salvation.

I think Luther was trying to emphasize how desperately, how constantly, how fully Christians must rely on the Holy Spirit in order to live a Christian life successfully. 

And how do we rely on the Spirit?  Through prayer.

“You mean like prayer like I have for 2 minutes of my 20 minute quiet time each day?”

Yes, prayer like that, but much more than that.

“You mean like prayer like I have for 3 minutes every night as I am trying to fall asleep because I am bored and praying usually gets me to sleep faster than just listening to the silence or my husband’s snoring?”

Yes, prayer like that, but much more than that.

“You mean like prayer like I have in my small group once a week where we spend 15 minutes catching up on the goings on of the week, and then we pray for 1 minute?”

Yes, prayer like that, but much more than that.

“You mean like prayer like when the pastor prays from the front, and I close my eyes and zone out, thinking about how bad I need to use the restroom and wondering what we’ll have for lunch until his ‘Amen!’ snaps me back to reality?”

No, not prayer like that.  Not at all.

I think Luther is trying to describe prayer as a vital constant in the believer’s life.

Just as we need oxygen to keep our hearts pumping, we need to be constantly dialoging with the Holy Spirit if we hope to have what we need to live the Christian life well.

Ephesians 3:16 says, “I pray that out of [the Father’s] glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”  The Spirit gives us the power we need to choose righteousness over sin, to stand up for truth instead of compromising it, to evangelize in intimidating situations.

Ephesians 1:17 reads, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”  The Spirit is able to give us wisdom and instruction for decision making throughout the day.  Are we asking Him to?  Are we listening?

As I get deeper into this Christianity thing, I am realizing I have barely scratched the surface of my relationship with God.  I am thankful for tangible examples of men and women in my life who are living much more intimately with Him, showing me that there is more for me to discover.

I don’t know if believers just discover this on their own when they are ready or if Spirit-led living is simply not taught (or taught well) enough.  But I feel like I’ve discovered a secret room in the Church that most believers never find, a room where Christians are in tune with the Spirit a huge percentage of each day.  I am standing in the doorway, in awe that this place even exists.  It is exciting to think that I could enter.  But I can’t just step in and instantly be living a Spirit-led life.  I have to learn how to live that way.

Little by little, I have to be retrained.  Stop relying on self, instincts, logic, intelligence, others.  Start purposefully asking and listening to the Spirit moment by moment for whatever He might be telling me.  Does this sound hard?  It is!  I default back to my old self often, and sometimes it is days before I even realize it.  But this is something the Spirit wants for me and for you.  And He will give us the power to change our ways over time.

Exhale a prayer now, “Lord, help me to be more aware of your Spirit.”

Inhale the power of the Spirit.

Are you breathing?

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther

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