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Greetings All,

Today's 'thoughts' have to do with prayer. They are by Henri J. M. Nouwen and come from his book, "Bring Prayer into Your Life--With Open Hands." To understand his first thought you must know that in the Old Testament the Hebrew term for the Spirit of God is "Ruah Elohim" - the wind or breath of God. Likewise, in the New Testament the word for Spirit "pneuma," which like the Hebrew "ruah" is also translated wind or breath (as in John 3:5-8 where "pneuma" is translated "spirit" in verses 5,6, and 7 and then rightly (because of the context) translated "wind" in verse 8). Enjoy!

"Perhaps the challange of the gospel lies precisely in the invitation to accept a gift for which we can give nothing in return. For the gift is the breath of God - the Spirit poured out on us through Jesus Christ. This life breath frees us from fear and gives us new room to live.

Those who live prayerfully are contantly ready to receive the breath of God, and let their lives be renewed and expanded. Those who never pray, on the contrary, are like children with asthma. Because they are short of breath, the whole world shrivels up before them. They creep into a corner gasping for air, and are virtually in agony. But those who pray open themselves to God and can breathe freely again. They stand upright, stretch out their hands, and come out of their corner, free to move about without fear."

"In the thinking of our modern, active, energetic world, praying and living have come to be so widely separated that bringing them together seems almost impossible. But here lies the central problem: How can our prayer be truly necessary for the welfare of our fellow human beings? What do we mean when we say that we should 'pray always,' and that prayer is the 'one thing necessary'?

The question becomes important only when it is posed in its most radical form. The question of when or how to pray is not really the most important one. The crucial question is whether we should pray always and whether our prayer is necessary. Here, the stakes are all or nothing. For if we say it's good to turn to God in prayer for a spare minute, or if we grant that a person with a problem does well to take refuge in prayer, we have as much admitted that praying is on the margin of life and doesn't really matter... Prayer has meaning only if it is necessary and indispensable. Prayer is prayer only when we can say that without it, we cannot live."

Nouwen touches on something I've witnessed over and over: Prayer being used as little more than an occasional emergency distress call. People using prayer like the captain of a ship that's going down in a storm, who races to send out the S.O.S. signal, but does it only then and never when things are well. And, of course, there's nothing inately wrong with turning to God when we're desperate. We all tend to do so.

Yet if that's the only time we think prayer is necessary; if we don't see it as our lifeline to God at all times and for all things (even when things seem to be going very well!), then we have misunderstood prayer's purpose, will not make it a priority, and will not in any true sense be praying people. We will, as Nouwen says, keep it "on the margin of life" and be affirming what our true inner belief in regard to prayer really is -- that prayer "doesn't really matter."

Here the imagery of the Spirit as the "wind" or the "air we breathe" is helpful in relation to prayer. If we were to observe the prayer life of many we could be led to believe that the only time one needs to "breathe" is when they're in trouble. The only time they need to suck in air is when they're drowning. Yet its so untrue. We need to breathe all the time - whether we're in trouble or not!

We stand in desperate need of the "air" or "wind" (the "ruah" or the "pneuma" of Christ or God) whether we are sinking, drowning, walking on solid ground or sleeping peacefully.

In fact, if we prayed "always," or "without ceasing," as the apostle admonishes us, we would find ourselves sinking a lot less, and using prayer as a mere, occasional, hurried S.O.S or distress call far less. As Richard Baxter once said,
"Prayer is the breath of the new creature." It's what the Spirit born and renewed soul feeds on and thrives on!

With prayers that God might pour out a spirit of prayer upon all His people, Pastor Jeff