In the Christian life, the new man of Christ is born in the heart and the old man is constantly denied. As in the physical body, three things must be done to keep the spiritual body alive. The second and third will be discussed in subsequent weeks, but the first has been covered this week. The words themselves rhyme in English: prayer is needed by the spiritual body just as much as air is needed by the physical body.
Without air/prayer, the body will be deprived of oxygen. Malaise, weakness, and fatigue will set in. In the busy-ness of life, the majority of Christians simply do not pray enough, and the prayers given are often limited to food, church services, and times of dire emergency. Just as we breathe constantly, in our spiritual lives we need to pray constantly, or as the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Fresh air provides energy, vitality, and life. The lack of prayer results in weakness, desperation, the inability to communicate with others, and eventual death. Amongst the three necessities for life (as we will see in these three months of study), asphyxiation is the fastest method to die—physically and spiritually.
First, habits of prayer must be developed through discipline. Though that word often evokes disgust, discipline is integral to the disciple. It is God’s will that we develop the habit of regular of prayer (1 Thess. 5:16–18). While the provisions of salvation have been made by the blood of Jesus and do not include the merits of human works, we can develop practices in our lifestyle and routines that keep us mindful of Christ’s salvation. Without the power of regular prayer, disciples lose their hold on God, and many slowly leave the fold of Christ, indifferently and imperceptibly.
Second, prayer helps us recognize that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare. We are disciples of the Lord Jesus, and spiritual opponents seek to pick off each of us, His followers. Prayer continues to unite us with our Master and provides a level of both offense and defense against the forces of darkness. Rather than directly attack us, the devil often tries to keep us away from the power of God in prayer. Whether it’s through the monotony of our prayer lives or the empty content of our prayers, he tempts God’s people to look at the art of prayer as a commonplace and tedious habit.
Third, when we have the example of Jesus Christ before us and the presence of the Spirit mindful in the present, then we will naturally pray relationally and persistently. It’s not a matter of formulas, mechanics, and the configuration of the prayers; it’s about the connection of two beings together through the realness of the actual relationship; it’s the time spent together despite the needs of the day; it’s the meeting of thoughts, emotions, and their exchange; it’s the supernatural flow of powerful blessings from heaven to earth, from divine to human, from God to us; it’s the breathing of heaven’s air while dwelling on the earth beneath, just as Jesus did.