My Apple watch keeps reminding me to breathe. I am aware; I need to breathe, it sustains my life. But what is really annoying is that my watch prompts me to breathe when I have the least amount of time to stop and breathe. Do you ever find yourself with no time to breathe? Life can feel like that. Ministry can feel like that. As we strive to be Jesus in the flesh to those God puts in our path, we can easily get overloaded and forget to take time to just breathe. Maybe the Apple watch is much more intuitive than we realize…
I think about Jesus as he did ministry. Jesus could have served 24/7 and still never met the needs of all the people. If we read the Gospels we see that, though a large crowd usually gathered when Jesus showed up, he often healed just one or two. Instead of trying to meet every need, he regularly slipped away to be with God, to refuel and replenish, to seek guidance from his Father, and be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, equipping him for the work he was called to do… this is how it works.
“And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25 NIV
Solitude. Silence. Prayer. Jesus makes these things a priority.
As an extrovert, that (solitude, silence) goes against my natural grain. I am fueled by people. I found that most evident when the pandemic hit, churches closed, and we resorted to online services. I didn’t think that much about it, until I was preaching my sermon to empty pews… they do not respond, FYI, and I immediately felt the sensation of slogging through mud as I droned on to lifeless pews. In that moment I realized, I need people!
But even as an extrovert, I can get people overload. As I pour out all my energy – I need to refuel. I need space – breathing space. I need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. There is only one way, one place, I can get that – in the presence of my heavenly father as I take a breath, sit at his feet, and wait for a word, a touch, a fresh filling.
I treasure my time with God, early in the morning, sitting in his presence, listening for his voice. But truth be told, once the day starts, I am all in – pedal to the metal. Anxiety, stress, and frustration can begin to creep in – I know I need God’s presence all day, every day.
Taking time out of our busy day/life to sit in silence and solitude awaiting the presence of God may seem like a luxury we cannot afford in our busyness – even in ministry. But without it, we have no ministry. Jesus models for us the best use of time, the best practice for ministry, all throughout the Gospels. Jesus withdrew. He went into the wilderness, he got up early, he went off by himself, he went up into the mountains, he went out into the garden… and Jesus prayed.
Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
That reminder to breathe, on my Apple watch, can serve as a reminder to stop and pray – no matter where I am. Surely I can take the 60 seconds to breathe and pray a simple breath-prayer. A breath-prayer is a simple prayer that draws us back to the presence of God. God is with us always, as close as our breath. Choose a favorite Scripture, promise of God, or encouraging word, and meditate on it as you breathe in and out. My favorite is from Psalm 46:10: Be still and know (breathe in…), that I am God (breathe out…). This simple practice can re-center us and help us turn over our “to do” list to God as we rest in his presence, even for a moment.
God is always just a breath prayer away. That is where I want to be. How about you? Will you take time today to sit quietly in the presence of God… and just breathe?