Spiritual Oxygen: Are You Getting It?
At rest, your lungs take in six liters of air per minute. When you’re working hard, you can take in more than 100.
Breathing is a miracle we don’t stop to think about very much. It’s involuntary; we just do it.
In the same amazing way God created us with the capacity to breathe to sustain our natural lives, He has given us as Christians a way to “breathe spiritually” for our spiritual well-being.
“Spiritual breathing, like physical breathing,” said Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, “is a process of exhaling the impure and inhaling the pure, an exercise in faith that enables you to experience God’s love and forgiveness and walk in the Spirit as a way of life.”
“But the average Christian does not understand this concept of spiritual breathing as an exercise of faith and, as a result, lives on a spiritual roller coaster. He/she goes from one emotional experience to another living most of his life as a worldly Christian, controlling his/her own life–frustrated and fruitless.”1
Betty Lau, now a campus ministry leader, once felt that way. “I’d get a fresh start in my Christian life, then something would happen, and boom, I’d lose it.” She recalls coming home college for a break, feeling good spiritually, only to have a blowout with her sister. “There were words, slamming doors, and my sister walked out. Afterwards, I felt like though being filled with the Holy Spirit sounded good in theory, it just didn’t work.” Later she would discover the active daily discipline of spiritual breathing–and the freedom that discipline would bring.
Spiritual breathing defined
Physical breathing provides the body with a constant supply of oxygen, which is necessary for energy production. It also releases the byproduct of the process–carbon dioxide, a gas that is lethal in large quantities.
Spiritual breathing is like physical breathing in that:
- You “exhale” by confessing your sins immediately to God and claiming His forgiveness
- You “inhale” by asking the Holy Spirit to control and empower you and to keep you from returning to sin.
Usually, we don’t think about our physical breathing. But spiritual breathing is something that requires conscious action–a readiness to “exhale” or confess our sin and to “inhale” or trust God to fill us with His Holy Spirit.
Amy Aker, mother of three boys under age six, has found that spiritual breathing makes a difference in her parenting. “If I’m not disciplining my children correctly–if I yell or use manipulation–once I realize that I’ve done it, I will calmly tell them, ‘Why don’t you go to your room for a little while. I’ll be right there.’ Then, I’ll go to my room for a few quiet minutes and God will reveal to me the heart of my sin, whether it’s impatience or just wanting to impose my will on others. I’ll confess it to Him, and then I ask the Holy Spirit to give me the power to change, because without His help, I can’t do it. Then I’m ready to confess my wrong actions to my kids and have a fresh start.”
Don’t wait to exhale
It’s been said that one measure of Christian maturity is the shortness of time between when we sin to the time we confess it. If we keep short accounts with God, our “old sin nature” can be kept on a short leash. We can confess our sin as soon as we entertain a sinful thought and before we speak an ugly word or act on evil desires.
“Spiritual exhaling” is agreeing with God about our sin, whether in thought or deed, and thanking Him for His forgiveness and expressing a willingness to change our attitude and actions.
“The more immediately sin is confessed and forsaken, the more sensitive and tender the heart remains,” says a pamphlet on the subject by Life Action Ministries. “Spiritual breathing is an integral part of maintaining personal purity… The practice of breathing spiritually aids in developing a God-consciousness, which in turn serves to keep the revived heart spiritually focused and less susceptible to continual iniquity.”2
This has been Amy Aker’s experience. “Confessing my sin is the key to a peaceful life. If I don’t readily confess, it pulls me down and eats me up. As a mom, I don’t always have time for an extended quiet time or Bible reading. Spiritual breathing helps me to stick close to God, to get right with Him moment by moment.”
“Breathing in” the Holy Spirit
To inhale spiritually is to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith. How do you do that?
When you receive Jesus Christ as your leader and forgiver, the Holy Spirit immediately enters your life and He never leaves (John 1:12; Colossians 2:9,10; John 14:16,17).
The Holy Spirit lives in you so that you can:
- Demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23) and become more like Christ (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18)
- Experience a meaningful prayer life and study of God’s Word
- Experience power in witnessing (Acts 1:8)
- Be prepared for spiritual battle against the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:15-17; Galatians 5:16,17; 1 Peter 5:7-9; Ephesians 6:10-13).
- Experience power to resist temptation and sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 1:19-23; 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 6:1-16).3
Though all born-again Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, not all are filled with the Holy Spirit. Not all are experiencing what He has to offer.
To be filled (empowered and controlled) by the Holy Spirit, we must, in faith, acknowledge our dependence on Him and “hand Him the reins” of our life.
We are commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to “Keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Betty Lau has been learning what that means since she started practicing spiritual breathing 10 years ago. “It is a continuous, conscious choice I make to walk in the Holy Spirit’s power. Repentance isn’t a one time thing; it’s giving my life over to God and asking Him to direct my decisions on a moment-by-moment basis.”
The result? “My Christian life is no longer about self-effort and defeat,” says Betty. “It’s about allowing the Holy Spirit to permeate every area of my life. Though spiritual breathing is a conscious thing, the more I choose to do it, the more it becomes second nature.”
Are you ready to ask the Holy Spirit to direct your life? Why not pray this simple prayer right now and by faith invite God to fill you with His Spirit:
Dear Father, I need you. I acknowledge that I have sinned against you by directing my own life. I thank you that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen.