For Christians prayer is like breathing. You don’t have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and forces you to breathe. That’s why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when you’re born into the family of God, you enter into a spiritual atmosphere wherein God’s presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on your life. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer. Only then can we survive in the darkness of the world.
Unfortunately many believers hold their spiritual breaths for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is, every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths to be fully functional.
Because ours is such a free and prosperous society, it is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on instead of depending on God’s grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual blessings. Having become so dependent on their physical resources, they feel little need for spiritual resources. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. Christians can actually behave like practical humanists, living as if God were not necessary. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing—along with His empowerment. Because of this great and common danger, Paul urged believers to “pray at all times” (Eph. 6:18) and to “devote yourselves to prayer” (Col. 4:2). Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of dependence on God.
I listened to a message by Ben Patterson recently that encouraged me to trust Christ to “build His church.” I’ve been humbled by the fact that, as hard as I try, I cannot build it. I want to develop a greater dependence on God for the growth of His church, and I think it has much to do with my prayer life. John MacArthur describes it like this in his book Alone with God: