Spiritual Apnea

“Pray without ceasing”
(1 Thessalonians 5:17).

John Wesley said:
God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.

Sleep Deprivation is killing us.
“So today one-third of us have insomnia while another third are dangerously sleep deprived. Experts claim that sleepiness is “the smoking gun of the modern age” and unless we radically shift our attitude towards sleep we are heading for a medical meltdown. The American Sleep Foundation reports that sleep deprivation, not cancer or coronary illness, now constitutes the number one killer in the Western World.” -The American Sleep Foundation

You are too tired, my friends. You may scoff at sleep. You may be proud of how little you get, of how busy you are, but God designed sleep. God designed rest.

God instituted the Sabbath as a way of teaching us to rest. Yet many of us simply do not believe this is still in effect. Although we are not under the Law, the New Testament book of Hebrews teaches, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (4:9). This is a rest from striving to please God first and foremost. All of you wonderful servants with over active consciences need to hear that. Additionally, I believe you need to take one day in seven literally and rest. Make it Sunday as the church has traditionally, or make it Saturday as the Jews and Adventists do today, but take one day in seven off. You don’t have to be legalistic about it, since that takes all the rest out of the day.

Sleep is important. You need an average of eight hours per night. Teenagers need 9. Adults may do well with as little as seven. As your Pastor I am asking you to rest and to sleep. You’ll feel better. You’ll be more effective and alert.

One of the major causes of sleep deprivation is a condition known as Sleep Apnea.

“The Greek word apnea literally means ‘without breath.’”
“….people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer.
Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated.”

I think many of us have what I will call Spiritual Apnea. We fail to let our spirit breath. I mean we don’t pray. Prayer is air for the spirit. The airway is clogged up with our flesh and the spirit is cut off from God. The reason. We choose to set our mind on the flesh. We are incredibly distracted by our world of gadgets and entertainment. We strive to control our unpredictable circumstances, to keep ourselves and our kids safe. We seek financial wealth in lieu of spiritual wealth. We let doubt creep in and overcome our faith in a good Father who is working everything out for our good. We are suffocating ourselves, my friends.

I’d like to offer the prescription for Spiritual Apnea. First, do a little test to discover if you have it.

  1. On an average day do you go for extended periods of time where you forget about God?
  2. Do you lose consciousness of the presence of the Holy Spirit?
  3. Do you pray constantly throughout the day?

If your answer was “yes” to the first two questions, or no to the last, then I would diagnose you with Spiritual Apnea. Now for the cure. Ready?

Breath. Breath deep. Keep doing that. Here’s what I mean. Turn your attention toward God; set your mind on him. Start talking to him as you’d speak to a close friend.

You might say, “But I don’t know how to pray. I wouldn’t know what to say.”

Open your thoughts to the God who is now here and let them flow toward him. You talk to yourself throughout the day. We all do. It’s called subvocalization. Turn that self talk into God talk.

A pastor at our church has given testimony about his relationship with his wife before they got married. He says they often talked on the phone late into the night. In fact, he remembers falling asleep without hanging up the phone. That is what you and I need to do with our Father. Don’t hang up the phone!

Doubt, or downright unbelief, will keep you from following my prescription. However, if you don’t believe, your spirit is dead anyway. You don’t need a cure; you need a resurrection!

No one has a relationship with God naturally. Something supernatural must happen. Only the resurrected Christ can bring you up from the dead. Call out to him. Ask him to save you. Trust him as your Leader and your God. Let him breath on you, which means receive the Holy Spirit (see John 20:22).

But you might say, “ It’s like he’s not listening to me. I feel like God isn’t even there.” Sin is a blockage keeping many of you from breathing prayer to God.

“Your sins have separated you from your God; your iniquities have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

“If I had regarded iniquity in my heart the LORD would not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

So, confess your sin and get the blockage cleared.
“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all righteousness” (1st John 1:9).

Unforgiveness is a major sin many of us hold onto. Forgive and be forgiven. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, ESV).

In addition to opening your thoughts to God, it is important to spend time alone with God in prayer. There are different kinds of prayer. Here are three:

  1. Petition- this is the most common type; it means asking God for your needs (Philippians 4:6-7, John 16:24).
  2. Intercession- means praying for other people (Ephesians 6:18-20).
  3. Warfare- means praying against the schemes of Satan (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Now, you might think you don’t have time to get alone with God and pray. However, the founder of the Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther, a very busy man indeed. Here’s what he said,

“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”

You and I will never be successful at the life we’ve chosen to live for Christ until we learn to pray without ceasing and get into the closet with God daily (Matthew 6:6).

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” A.J. Gordon

“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” John Wesley

Let’s conclude with the model prayer Jesus gave his disciples in response to their request that he teach them how to pray.

“Our Father in heaven…  God is above and beyond me, I am not He.
hallowed be your name… God is utterly otherly, I revere Him, fear Him, bow to Him
Your kingdom come…  I want God’s government to come to earth.
your will be done…  I am not pushing for my agenda or desire, but desire His will
on earth as it is in heaven... God’s perfect will is done in heaven. I want it on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread… I have needs, but I only need them met today.
and forgive us our debts... I’m sinful and need forgiveness constantly throughout the day.
as we also have forgiven our debtors... I forgive as I am forgiven.
And lead us not into temptation… I am not strong enough to overcome every temptation
but deliver us from evil…  Only the Father can keep me from being overrun by the devil.
(Matthew 6:9-13, ESV).

So, why not take some time and breath right now. Talk to the Father. Offer up the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 50:14, 116:17, Hebrews 13:15). Praise Him for who He is. Thank Him for what He has done. Open a dialog and don’t stop.