The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life
and the man became a living being.
God breathes out. We breathe in. And we live. Our life, a gift. Each breath, a new gift. We live and move and have our being through the life support of our Maker. All of life is lived in relationship to this One who breathes out life so that we can breathe in life.
Life lived in relationship to our Maker is prayer. All of life, all our life, is a gift received, a prayer lived. This is perhaps the broadest and deepest meaning of what it is to live and what it is to pray. It all begins with God. All life. All prayer.
God is the initiator. We, the creatures, are the responders. God breathes out. We breathe in and live. God, who is with us always, calls us, longs for us, seeks fuller relationship with us. By God’s grace, we acknowledge the Giver of all good gifts and receive more fully. We begin to enter a more fully conscious, open hearted relationship with this One on whom our every breath depends. And we are changed. We are freed to be our creature-selves—dependant, child-like, teachable, honest, humble. And into this opening vessel, grace rushes, filling us with the very light and life and goodness of God so that God can be more fully present in us and in the world through us. This is prayer.
Prayer is a living, dynamic reality. It is all the rhythms of life lived in relationship with the One who gives us life. It is our service and our rest. Our work and our celebration. Our solitude and our community with others. Our extending grace and our need for grace. Our silence and the out pouring of our hearts. Our lament and our great joy. Our letting go and our holding fast. It is all prayer.
There is a problem, however. There are forces at play in our world and in our lives that cause us to lose sight of who our Maker is, of who we are and of who our neighbor is. We lose sight of the most basic realities: that we all are loved and valued beyond telling by our Maker, that all of life was designed to be lived in loving relationship with God and with each other. Because we lose our way, we fail to love. We miss the mark. We hurt ourselves and each other. The beauty of God’s life in us is dimmed, even eclipsed. We find ourselves in the dark, afraid and defended, full of resentment and despair.
We need to be awakened from our sleep of forgetfulness. We need new eyes to see, new ears to hear, new hearts and minds to respond to the call of love from God. We need to be healed, forgiven, helped and guided. We need to be set free.
This, too, is God’s amazing initiative. The Christian story is the story of God sending Jesus, of God coming to us in Jesus. Jesus came, not to judge, but to save, to heal, to set free. Jesus came to declare to us that God, our Maker, loves and values us beyond our comprehension. Jesus came to show us the way of true life, surrendered to God, the way of true self-giving love. Jesus came to wake us up, to give us new eyes and hearts, to save us from our worst selves, and to free us to be our true selves—made in God’s own image.
God sustains us with the breath of life and calls us through Scripture, through the good news of Jesus, through the wind of the Spirit moving in our world and our lives. God calls us through our longings, our need, our failings and through gifts and grace flowing from God’s heart of love.
Even as God breathes each breath into us, God also seeks to wake us up to the fullness of life. “Breathe Me in more deeply,” God says to us. “Let your heart wake up to its longing for Me, its longing for love. In humility and honesty, acknowledge your failures to love and your need of Me. Turn to Me, I am right here. Let all of life be lived in an unfolding relationship of love with Me and with others.”
The dynamic of life and of prayer is that God breathes and we live. God calls us in love to come closer and we find our hearts longing for God. God pours out God’s Self and our lives are touched in ways unlooked for, unexpected. We struggle and fall and call out for help, only to realize that Someone has been waiting for our call all along. The wind of the Spirit blows and we wake to the windows of our soul blown open and the light of God pouring in. In this light we know ourselves in all our complexity—beautiful in our making, marred and hurtful in our selfishness and greed and pride, loved and valued beyond our comprehension. Jesus comes and kneels before us, a Joyful Servant, and we see how much we hold back love from others, and how much our spirits long to kneel with Jesus before all others in joyful service.
We are partners in a dance. A dance in which we are clearly not in the lead. We are the responders, the receivers, and also often the resisters, of these endless movements of grace. As we dance in these ways with God, and learn to resist less and less, we begin to hear the love song our Maker continually sings over us and our hearts respond with songs of love in return. Our hearts open. And gratitude pours out, and joy. We experience the truth of who we are, that we are the much loved children of God. We are ready now to turn more often and more freely to God for comfort when we sorrow, for strength when we suffer, for forgiveness when we fail, for guidance in all our affairs. We are changing. We are being set free to know that we are loved. We are being freed to love. Breathing in the life and love that is God, breathing out the love of God to others.