(7 minute read)
“Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (Psalm 116:2, NLT).”
On this day, we remember the day when Jesus rested in the earth.
If Jesus lived thirty-three years, taking fifteen breaths per minute, over his earthly life, He would have taken two hundred and forty million, one hundred and seventy-two thousand breaths.
But on the cross, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” (John 19:30, NIV) and breathed His last breath.
Our lives have a beginning and an end. One day we took our first breath. One day we’ll take our last breath.
The question is: what will we do with the breath we have been given?
You may have heard of the poem “How to Live With Your Dash.” It’s about a man who spoke at the funeral of a good friend. He talked about the year of her birth and the day she died. These two dates would be etched on her tombstone. In between the birth date and the date of her death, there was this dash. It was not the beginning or the end that made the woman who she was. It was the dash.
Your life is made of two dates and a dash. The dash between the two dates means so much. That dash is full of first days of school, graduations, perhaps getting married, fun times with family and friends, dressing up for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmases and Easter, family vacations, weddings, births, deaths, good times, and bad times. The dash includes times you wish you could go back and relive those moments. It also includes times you wish you could forget.
That dash is such a small, little thing on a tombstone but is by far the most important part.
The big question is: how will we live with the dash? You and I have a choice.
Will you invest in relationships? Will you learn how to follow Christ to experience His abundant life? Will you learn to pray? Will you find the joy that comes from serving others and serving Jesus, or will you serve yourself?
The poem concludes:
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say?
About how you spent your dash?
After launching orphanages that served ten thousand children, raising a child (Lydia), traveling the world to preach, supporting missionaries, and supplying scriptures and tracts for over fifty thousand people, George Müller came to the end of his life.
It was Holy Week. On Sunday, March 6, 1898, Müller spoke at Alma Road Chapel. His text was John 12, which describes Jesus’ anointing and triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He spoke of the “bright prospect” of heaven that Christians can anticipate. The following Wednesday, he told James Wright, his son-in-law and successor in the running of the orphanages, that he was feeling weak and needed rest. In the evening, however, he held his usual meeting at the Orphan House. They concluded with the hymn “We’ll Sing of the Shepherd That Died.”
The next morning, March 10, Müller awoke between five and six o’clock. He got up and walked to the dressing table. It was then that the “bright prospect” he had spoken in his sermon just four days earlier became a glorious reality. Müller met the Savior he had served for seventy years.
Years beforehand, Müller said, “The longer I live, the more I am enabled to realize that I have but one life to live on earth and that this one life is but a brief life, for sowing, in comparison with eternity, for reaping.”
He lived his life to the full for Christ. His dash made an eternal difference. Most of all, he learned to pray and depend on his Heavenly Father.
Müller often said that his life was not extraordinary. Others could experience the same quiet trust, joyful faith, and expectant answers to prayer. “Every child of God is not called to establish schools and orphan houses and to trust in the Lord for means for them,” he observed. “Yet, there is no reason why you may not experience, far more abundantly than we do now, His willingness to answer the prayers of His children.”
What about your life?
No matter how you have lived up to now, how do you want to use the breath that you have left?
To experience Jesus’ full life and be used for His glory, there must be a kind of death before the day you die. You must die to yourself so that His life can be lived through you.
“There was a day when I died, utterly died,” Müller once said, “to George Müller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will — died to the world, its approval or censure — died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends — and since then I have studied to show myself approved unto God.”
When you die to yourself, God can begin to teach you to really pray. Your every breath becomes an opportunity to draw near to the Living God.
Use your life for a big purpose. You were made for God’s glory. Your glory is too small a thing to live for. God continues to give you breath for a reason. It’s not too late to be close to God. It’s not too late to learn to pray. It’s not too late to start serving others.
One day, your life will be over. One day, you, too, will breathe your last breath. Don’t waste what you have been given.
On this holy, silent Saturday, get alone and pray that God would give you clarity on your life. Let your Heavenly Father surround you with love. Ask God to help you to dedicate your life, from this day forward, to serve Him and to live for His glory.
I’d like to end these prayer devotions with a portion of one of my favorite poems. It’s called The Summer Day by my favorite poet, Mary Oliver (1935-2019).
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Prayer Principle #40: Every day — every breath — is another opportunity to pray.