Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
June 23rd, 2022
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18
One day last week, while I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw an ad for a device that looked like an asthma inhaler, and the ad said it was a “drug-free” way to reduce stress, anxiety, and interrupt oncoming panic attacks. I thought: “That’s interesting, I wonder how they do that without ‘drugs’, (which can mean any chemical compound that has an effect on the body), and why it looks like an inhaler if that is so?” So I clicked on the ad to try to find out what the device actually does. After scrolling through testimonials and the like, I finally got to a description of what it does: when you start breathing into it, it activates a sound recording counting slowly, indicating when to breathe (stops hyperventilation, regulates breathing rhythm), while emitting a soothing scent (and there were a few to choose from). So: a counter to regulate breathing, and a pleasant scent to smell. Would work, I suppose, on a basic level.
But that got me to thinking about breathing, and how it’s generally involuntary, but can be controlled voluntarily when intended. And it made me realize, we have several involuntary functions our muscles perform (such as heart beating, intestines digesting, kidneys filtering blood, etc.), and of course voluntary actions we control with the conscious part of our brains (walking, working with our hands, turning our heads left & right, etc.), and then there are a few which are ‘blended’, able to be either voluntary or involuntary. Blinking would be one of those (think about it: how many times have you blinked today? But how many times have you consciously commanded your eyelids ‘blink now’? Yet you can voluntarily do so any time you choose (in fact, I bet you’re consciously doing it right now!)), and breathing is another.
I praise the Lord for the involuntary aspect of breathing, since it would be incredibly tiresome to have to consciously tell our lungs every several seconds ‘breathe in/out now’, and what about when we sleep? And what about babies? So the involuntary aspect is crucial. But it’s also needfully voluntary, in cases like blowing on hot food, holding one’s breath for swimming, singing in a choir, etc.
Going back to our highlight verse above, we’re told to “pray without ceasing”. At first thought, we might be inclined to react, “but that’s impossible!” For some of us, to sustain a 10 or even a 5-minute prayer can be difficult. Also, we need to work and talk to people and drive our cars and the like, so just what was the Apostle Paul meaning when he wrote this?
I think this verse necessitates another way of conceiving our prayers. That they not be so much ‘events’, or voluntary communications we undertake, but more like breathing. More like something we constantly do which sustains (spiritual) life. Ellen White uses the illustration of prayer as breathing in saying “Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven. …Let the soul be drawn out and upward, that God may grant us a breath of the heavenly atmosphere. We may keep so near to God that in every unexpected trial our thoughts will turn to Him as naturally as the flower turns to the sun.” Steps to Christ, p.99
So I pray that our faith relationship with God would be less like picking-up & hanging-up the phone, and be more like having the communication line continually open. When you were a teenager, did you ever just keep the phone line open with your girlfriend/boyfriend so you could constantly be in their presence? I’ve even known people who’ve fallen asleep with the phone line open with their dear one. Could it not be so with God as well? Just, making our mental space a welcome place to Him at all hours of the day & night? Down to the minutia of daily tasks and the like? According to scripture, He wants to hear. It’s crazy to imagine! That is some kind of love.
What a blessing and opportunity it is to be connected to heaven, even constantly! We need never walk in darkness, we need never feel alone, knowing that God is attentive, caring, and interested in our day-to-day mundanity.
May God bless you and your families the remainder of the week.
Pr. Mark Tatum