Monday, September 28, 2009

Spiritual Asthma

I’ve heard that ancient Christians called prayer the breathing of the soul.

I love this thought. There’s so much to ponder about air and breathing.

  • Air nourishes our blood, enabling us to function properly.

  • We were made to breathe automatically and unconsciously.

  • Taking a deep breath, calms, focuses and empowers us.

  • The lack of sufficient air can lead to lethargy, drowsiness or headaches.

  • The complete lack of air can lead to brain damage or death.

It’s easy to see how prayer is indeed the breathing of the soul. I know this cognitively and even experientially. But I also know there are times my soul experiences shortness of breath and gasps for air. The problem is not so much around the issues that send me to my knees; my prayers are pretty strong then. It is the little stresses of life that can take my breath away.

Recently, I saw a DVD entitled “The Widow and the Judge.” It’s one of the Modern Parables series, based on the story found in Luke 18:1-8 about prayer. The filmmaker did an excellent job staying true to the parable, but one thing that specifically struck me was a prop he used. In the drama, he depicted the widow as being asthmatic. Whenever she felt stress, she would experience labored breathing and need her inhaler.

Now I’m not an asthmatic, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have breathing restrictions. It feels scary just thinking about it. But those who have asthma have learned what to do to manage that reality. They know their very lives depend on restoring proper breathing as quickly as possible.

I’ve been thinking about this all week.

During the commentary on the DVD, the pastor noted that prayer is such a private and intimate thing, we can’t see it in others, but we can see the evidence when it’s lacking. He said we see its lack when fear sets in, worry, anxiety, frustration…

These are all words I’m well-acquainted with. In fact, his point hit a sore spot, for these are the very times I can find it hard to pray.

What’s more, thinking about the widow, it occurred to me that in those moments, I’m having a spiritual asthma attack. In other words, I need to proactively restore proper breathing and open the channel to my soul so prayer can flow freely without restriction, as soon as possible.

Just as an asthmatic automatically recognizes symptoms and reaches for an inhaler. I, too, want to recognize when I’m beginning to suffocate my soul with worry, anxiety, or frustration. I’m so accustomed to these symptoms that I have a tendency to wait too long before taking action. But waiting can have drastic consequences to my spiritual health (not to mention my emotional or physical health!)

As I thought about this idea this week, I surmised that learning to recognize and respond to the symptoms sooner would invariably make a huge difference in my soul, and was this ever true.

My personal “inhalers” vary: recalling a scripture passage, singing a praise song, and dispelling thoughts of fear by remembering God’s faithfulness have all served to reduce the negative flare ups that so frequently restrict my prayers. The key has been addressing the symptoms sooner than later.

Like any new habit, I will need to keep working on this. Old habits don’t leave without a fight. But I already see a change in my soul’s breathing pattern. God and I have been able to maintain a much more free-flowing dialogue, and his breath has strengthened my soul.

Psalms 23:3a

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tammy!

    I love how you put this into perspective. My own personal inhaler is singing to the Lord. I'm not too good at remembering scriptures (signs that I need to read the bible more). But a song will quickly come to mind whenever I'm experiencing "symptoms". "Encourage Yourself" is one of the songs that shake me out of my funk whenever I listen to it or sing it myself:)