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What Are We Singing: Breathe

  • Eva Marie Everson Contributing Writer
  • 2007 20 Jun
What Are We Singing: <i>Breathe</i>

Death by starvation. Death by dehydration. Death by suffocation.

Without the three most essential elements for sustaining life — food, water, and air — we die. For that reason, we hunger after and become desperate for that which allows us to maintain life…to keep on keeping on, as my late father used to say. We get hungry at various times of the day (some of us more often than others). We literally crave that which our body needs. When our body needs salt, we crave salty foods. When it needs protein, we seek after a steak or beans. When it must have water, we run for the refrigerator or faucet or outdoor spigot. If we — like me — are used to living below sea level and we venture to the mountains, we spend a few days drawing in as much air as our lungs can hold. Or, if we are swimming underwater, we will often come up for a breath. If something holds us back or down (for whatever reason) we will flail our arms and legs and become frantic to reach the line above the weight of the water.

Likewise, without spiritual food, water and air, we will die spiritually. And so we should remember each time we sing the song Breathe.


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.[1] 

In the very beginning of God’s story — of our story, really — the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) began to create something out of nothing. As we read these words most commonly attributed to the writings of Moses, we see that the Holy Spirit of God hovered over the first of creation. The word “Spirit” in Hebrew is ruwach, and means wind, breath. God’s Spirit is often likened to the wind or a breath, both of which are made up of air.

In Genesis 2, as God’s story continues, we read a more detailed description of the creation of God’s finest work: man. In that passage it says: the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.[2] 

It was the breath (Heb: nashamah) of God that breathed life into man. A closer look at that word reveals a startling truth. Nashamah means both “breath of God” and “spirit of man.” According to Moses, it was the LORD (YHWH or Jehovah) God (Elohim — plural intensive, singular meaning — the One True God) who performed this birthing process. The word “breathed” is Naphach and means “blow.”

In the 1970s, as a nursing student, I was required to spend time in Labor & Delivery. I so vividly remember the first birth of a human child I ever witnessed. Little by little I stepped back… until I was pressed against the farthest wall. When the little tike was swatted on the behind and began to wail, the doctor turned to me and said, “God sure is big, isn’t He?” All I could do was nod. Then he said, “They say that just as a baby is born, God presses His lips over a child’s nostrils and blows. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but I like the sentiment.”

Think about that. Whether it’s true or not (and I kinda like to think it is), picture yourself as a newborn, God’s lips over your nostrils. The Holy Spirit (breath) of God blowing life into your being.

Without it, we could not survive. We would gasp. We would become desperate.

We would die.

Food, Water 

The people who had come to see Jesus were hungry. With there being so many of them — five thousand of them men, not counting the women and children — and with there being so little food in their possession — five loaves of bread and two fish — it seemed they’d either have to remain hungry or go home when they weren’t quite ready to do so. Jesus took the five loaves and the fish, and multiplying them to more than the crowd would need, fed the people.

From there, Jesus went off to be alone, but the people found him. As though surprised at his being there, they said, “When did you get here?”

Jesus said, “The reason you looked for me is because I fed you.”

They asked, “What must we do to do the work God has required?”

“Believe in me.”

Well… the people thought about this. In order to truly believe, wouldn’t they need a sign? After all, Moses gave the people manna. “Bread from heaven,” they called it.

“Yes,” Jesus said. “But God gave it to Moses….and I am the bread of life. If you come to me and believe in me you will never grow hungry or thirsty again.[3]

In another story — a beloved story — Jesus meets a woman at the well in Samaria during the noon hour, a time when women didn’t usually go to the well. But she was something of a scarlet woman. Being thirsty, Jesus asked her to draw water for him. The woman was dumbfounded. After all, he was Jewish and Jewish men didn’t speak to Samaritan women. Jesus said to her, “If you knew who was sitting here before you, you’d ask him for a drink and he’d give you living water…water that, when consumed, will leave you so satisfied, you’ll never grow thirsty again.”

Before the day was over, the woman was telling everyone, “Come and see! Could this be the Christ?”[4]

Indeed it was…and is. As He provided for the multitudes, He gives us the spiritual food and water we need to survive and His Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual air.

This is the Air I Breathe 

I recently read a quote by singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith in which he said, “I think worship is a lifestyle, first of all.”

I wonder if he might have had those words in mind as he penned Breathe, a worship song that reminds us first and foremost our source for spiritual survival. Air, water, food. Without it…without Him…there is no life.

Editorial Correction: Thanks to the reader who alerted us to the following error. While Michael W. Smith is recognized for his arrangement and performance of Breathe, the songwriting credit belongs to Marie Barnett, copyright #1874117, in 1995 with Mercy/Vineyard Publishing.

Eva Marie Everson is the author of the recently published Oasis, A Spa for Body & Soul (Baker, 2007). An award-winning speaker and writer, she speaks both nationally and internationally approximately 20 times a year. Her passion is for the body of Christ to hear His Father’s heartbeat.

[1] Genesis 1: 1-2

[2] Genesis 2:6

[3] Paraphrased by the author from John 6

[4] Paraphrased by author from John 4