Take a deep breath and exhale; refreshing, right? Breathing is very complex but is primarily a subconscious activity. Did you know an average person breathes in and out around 22,000 times a day? Oxygen is the body’s life-giving gas. It is crucial to help boost our immune system and overall health. Our sensitive brains require lots of oxygen to think. Concentrating can be hard when our oxygen levels dip, and we get lightheaded. We often don’t think about breathing until we can’t catch our breath.

Our family recently relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado. My home sits up at 7400 ft. The view of Pikes Peak is spectacular, but the air is a bit thin. I have struggled to breathe. My personal takeaway is this: breathing is essential. It is a matter of life and death.

Learning to Breathe

There is a danger in familiarity. This is especially true in our spiritual lives. We may become casual in our relationship with God, taking His presence for granted. Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” [1]Prayer is a lifeline for believers. It is the life-giving means God designed to build our relationship with Him and others. He created it to be an ongoing conversation which begins with His speaking to us through His Word and continues with our responding to Him in prayer. It would be ridiculous to think you would only need to breathe one hour, one day a week. Paul admonished us to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess.5:17). Prayer ought to be the natural overflow of our time in Scripture. These means of grace are as inextricably entwined as breathing in and breathing out. Cutting off these vital lifelines means we are more susceptible to the father of lies’ schemes. But the good news is when we are in trouble, God is only a prayer away. We need only to cry out, “Help, Father!” Spiritual vitality begins with inhaling truth and exhaling prayers.

Enrolling in the School of Prayer

I don’t know about you, but when someone asks me, “how’s your prayer life going?” I wince in guilt. We all know we are called to pray but are often clueless about how to begin. My own prayer life shrinks to the level of this discipleship gap in my life. I don’t pray because deep down, I don’t believe I am needy. I am comfortable in my self-sufficient world I seek to control. I would rather spin in anxiety rather than sit in prayer. I am too prideful or shameful to ask my brothers and sisters to pray this along with me. I become deluded, thinking I can supply all my needs according to my own schemes and resources. I think I am the source and sustainer of my life rather than my Father. My prayerlessness reveals I don’t comprehend the glory and majesty of the Father and the abject poverty of my needs.

Perhaps this resonates with you. Maybe you can relate with the disciples who asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Smack dab in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers an oasis of grace. It is a daily pattern on how to commune with the Father.

Perfect Order of Prayer: God First, Man Second

The Lord’s Prayer is not focused on how we pray but what we pray. These words lay the groundwork for our vertical relationship with the Father and our horizontal relationships with those around us. The first half of the Lord’s Prayer is focused vertically on God’s glory, His name, reign, kingdom, and will. The second half focuses horizontally on man’s needs— his material, spiritual, and moral well-being. This prayer begins by lifting our eyes upward as we are comforted by Our Father, who is in heaven, and stand in awe at the hallowing of His name. Then we kneel in surrender as we ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done. We shift our focus to inward and outward needs from this humble posture. At this moment, we see the glory gap. God is infinite, and we are finite. So why does the Father graciously weave these dissimilar petitions together? God’s glory is always preeminent over man’s needs. But man is made to reflect God’s glory. We can never be all God intended us to be until our lives are orientated around glorifying and enjoying Him. It is our chief end! His glory flows to us, and then through us, enjoying His Fatherly love as He provides, pardons, and protects, not just individually but corporately. God first, man second—that is the perfect order of prayer.

Study, Pray, and Live it out Together

Jesus gathered a group so they could learn how to pray together. Why would we think we could learn any other way? As we will see, there are no singular pronouns in the entire prayer. It is covenantal through and through. I want to encourage you to study, pray, and live these truths together. Our grand purpose is to consider in the context of community what it might look like if the words of the Lord’s Prayer were written over every aspect of our lives, homes, work, church, and community. We will consider how our position in Christ determines our posture in prayer. It is a short passage, but we will be amazed at the rich learning layers found as we gaze at the multifaceted truths together. It is good for us to slow down, read, pray—and take a deep breath.

To join women across the PCA as they study Breathe: The Life-giving Oxygen of the Lord’s Prayer, click here.

[1] Martin Luther as quoted in George Sweeting, Talking it Over (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1985) p. 88

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Karen Hodge

Karen Hodge serves as the Coordinator for PCA Women’s Ministry, where she seeks to connect women and churches to one another and to sound resources. She is also having the time of her life serving alongside her husband, pastor and best friend Chris, at Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, CO. They have two adult children, Anna Grace Botka and Haddon Hodge. She is the host of the enCourage podcast and along with Susan Hunt, authored Transformed: Life-taker to Life-giver, Life-giving Leadership, and Breathe: The Life-giving Oxygen of the Lord’s Prayer.