“Deep Sea Diver” by TolyanMy
Connecting With God, Part 1
Prayer is air.
While I was busy working my way toward a college degree, my buddy Dean was busy working his way up Pacific Coast Highway. “He’ll never make a living without a degree,” I thought smugly. A short while later, I was the proud owner of a bachelor’s degree and a sub-minimum wage job selling encyclopedias. And Dean, I learned from a mutual friend named Roger, was making massive amounts of money! “Doing what?” I asked indignantly.
“Deep sea diving,” replied Roger (he’d worked with Dean off the Oregon coast). “What?” I snorted. “I thought that went out with Captain Nemo?” The image of Dean battling giant squids on the ocean floor flickered across my mind.
“Salvage work,” Roger explained, “old ship wrecks and dumped cargo. You can’t wear scuba gear ‘cause it’s too deep and you’re down there too long. So, yeah, it’s the whole deep sea diver bit. And it’s kinda crazy ‘cause if anything cuts off your air…” I could imagine the rest of the sentence.
“It’s strictly a two-person gig,” he went on. “You can’t do it alone. One guy goes down while the other guy stays up top making sure the air pump’s working and monitoring the pressure. You gotta have enough pressure or the ocean will crush you. And all the time you’re down there, you gotta keep checking your hose, making sure there’s no kinks or anything affecting the flow; the guy up top can’t do that. You gotta have new air constantly too. You can’t keep breathing the same air. You’re in an environment you weren’t made for.”
Many years have passed. I have no idea what became of Dean. Roger quit to do “less crazy things.” Me too—I never sold a single encyclopedia set. I knocked around for a few years trying to find myself. And then one day discovered that it wasn’t me I was looking for; it was the one who made me. God was there, I came to believe, yet he seemed so far away, so alien. And then I remembered Roger’s words, “you’re in an environment you weren’t made for,” and realized…
God isn’t the alien, we are. We, the human race, have turned our world into an alien, hostile environment, disconnecting from our source, our “air.” And there is only one thing that can revive us: prayer. Prayer is air!
First of all, prayer is “strictly a two-person gig.” You can’t do it alone. Just as deep sea divers can’t survive without someone “up top,” spiritual beings can’t survive without being connected to their Creator. Prayer isn’t self-talk. It isn’t motivational technique. It isn’t magical incantation. It’s communication. There’s no such thing as a self-contained “scuba prayer.” Without the countering pressure of God’s Spirit, “the ocean (the cares of this world – Mark 4:19) will crush you.” (Pneuma, the word for Spirit in the biblical Greek, also means “breath,” and is the source of the word pneumatics—pressurized air!)
Second, “You gotta keep checking your hose, making sure there’s no kinks or anything affecting the flow.” There are so many things that can affect the flow of God’s word and presence into our lives. Like deep sea divers, we must continually remind ourselves that nothing—nothing—is as important as that life-giving flow.
Third, “You gotta have new air constantly. You can’t keep breathing the same air.” Prayer, like any other form of communication, is only as healthy as it is fresh. If your last talk with your Creator was more than, say, a few hours ago, you’re breathing stale prayer!
Finally, “You’re in an environment you weren’t made for.” Roger’s last point may be the most important. We are “aliens and strangers in this world” (1 Peter 2:11) in which prayer is no longer normal, and idolatry (the worship of all things not God) is. But above all, the new norm in this post-Edenic world, is the worship of self. “You shall be as God,” says the serpent in Genesis 3:5, and that has been the world’s principal belief system ever since. The hose-kinking, life-sucking result of which is, ultimately, spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1).
So pray as if your life depends on it! Prayer is the key to spiritual survival, and yet it’s hard to pray in an environment that is hostile to prayer, a world that de-normalizes prayer as naïve at best and dangerous at worst. On the other hand, this alien environment and our own fallen natures make it perilously easy to slip into a consciousness-lulling rapture of the deep in which the heart and mind are slowly asphyxiated, ending in spiritual death!
This talk isn’t over yet…
Next: God, Are You There?