By Rev. Bob Vaage
First Lutheran Church in Milford
Recently a pastor friend of mine, Kai Nilsen, wrote a book entitled "Renew Your Life: Discovering the Wellspring of God's Energy." Kai begins his book by highlighting the renewing energy of the Holy Spirit as he connects the Spirit with the simple, natural act of breathing.
His book was inspired by a season in his ministry where "the breath" was knocked out of him. He writes about his "compassion fatigue" and total lack of energy to serve others. People would come to him with their problems and he simply didn't care anymore. He did not care!
Years ago this condition was labeled burnout. Today, we recognize the deeper issues that present themselves in episodes of anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue. More and more people seem to be afflicted by these symptoms and the trend doesn't seem to be reversing.
Pastor Kai shares in his book how he slowly regained his energy and joy for ministry, beginning with a simple practice of breath prayers. He would find a place of quiet and relaxation and simply breath in and breath out, listening to his own breath and thanking God for the simple gift of life.
Kai writes: "After you feel relaxed in body and quiet in mind, think about something in your day that is causing you stress -- maybe a meeting with your board or a confrontation with one of your kids -- and name the energy you need for that particular situation. Then pray this prayer over and over again saying 'Spirit of God' as you inhale, and then as you exhale say, 'restore my love,' or 'give me patience' or 'infuse me with energy.' Breathe this prayer over and over again until you feel yourself relax in regard to that particular situation."
Kai continued to share that this prayer exercise didn't work miracles overnight. But little by little his energy was being restored. He concludes his introduction by saying, "Prayer is as simple as taking an intentional breath and claiming that breath as Spirit energy, giving us what we need for the situation or the day. Begin stopping, noticing your breath and making it your prayer."
Throughout the Bible, the Spirit is referred to as the Breath of God. God created life and humanity by his very breath in Genesis chapters one and two. Ezekiel, the prophet, envisioned a time of restoration for the people of Israel as he saw God breathing new life into the dry bones of the slain people. And finally in the book of Acts, the Spirit Breath of God animated the flagging spirits of the early disciples and gave them new energies and courage to share the good news of Jesus with the entire world.
May God bless you with that same Spirit, that same gift of breath. May you draw deeply from the wellsprings of God's energy and grace! The next time you are stressed out and facing a huge obstacle or challenge in your life, just breathe. Breathe in the very life of God and be renewed!