How Long Can You Live Without Breathing?

 Lorraine Day, M.D.

How long can you live without eating? 

Medical studies have revealed that a person who is fit and healthy when beginning a fast, and if he or she is taking water, a person can survive between 46 and 73 days.  However, if a person is very sick, or in a vegetative state from a stroke or severe brain injury, that person can only survive approximately 10-14 days without food. 

How long can you live without water? 

The usual survival time without water is 3 days, but there have been occasional occurrences of people surviving 8-10 days without water. 

How long can you live without breathing? 

Usually a person can only survive 3 minutes without breathing, although there are women divers In Japan and other countries who dive for abalone or pearls who are able to survive for 5 minutes at a time, even diving to a depth of 100 feet, on a single breath, though this requires years of training. 

In unusual circumstances, there have been those who have been able to hold their breath for 22 minutes by first hyperventilating for 30 minutes, breathing pure oxygen rather than just air. 

Why is this important to know? 

Everything about God’s creation is designed to teach us a lesson.  God designed human beings to eat food, drink water, and breathe air. 


God is God.  He can do anything, so He obviously could have designed human beings in a different way.  So what lessons are we to learn from these facts? 

Jesus described Himself as the “Bread from Heavenand the “Bread of Life” 

“For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world. John 6:33   

“I am the bread of life. 

“Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 

“This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall have life for the eons (eonian life): and the bread that I will give is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” 

“The Judeans therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? 

Obviously, the Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was trying to tell them because they only understood physical – not spiritual – things.  They had “sense” knowledge, but no “revelation” knowledge. 

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. 

“Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, has eonian life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

"For My flesh is meat (food) indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.” 

“He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. 

“As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. 

“This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for the eonians (have eonian life).”  John 6:48-58 

Jesus referred to Himself as the “water of life.”  He said, 

“In the last day - that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”  John 7:37 

Woman at the well  

 When Jesus asked the woman at the well in Samaria to Give me water to drink, she responded 

“How is it that thou, being a Judean, askest a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?  For the Judeans have no dealings with the Samaritans: 

“Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me a drink: you would have asked of Him, and He would have given you living water. . . Whosoever drinketh of this water (in the well) shall thirst again: 

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eonian life.”  John 4:9-114 

God’s breath of holiness 

God breathed physical breath into Adam’s nostrils, and Adam became a living physical being (soul). 

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”  Gen 2:7 

But at Pentecost, Jesus breathed spiritual breath onto the disciples and they received His “breath of holiness” (continually and in error mistranslated as “Holy Spirit” or, even worse, “Holy Ghost”) through which Jesus gave them eonian life – the life of Jesus Christ living in them. 

After Jesus death and resurrection, when He met with His disciples in the Upper Room, He said to them:

“Peace be unto you: as the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. 

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the breath of holiness (again mistranslated “Holy Ghost).”  John 20:21,22 

It was only then, after they had received God’s breath of holiness – the actual life of Christ living in them – that their minds were open to understand truth.  They were completely changed.  A perfect illustration is that of Peter.  Before Pentecost – before receiving Christ’s breath of holiness – Peter was a frightened coward and fled to save his life after betraying Jesus three times. 

But after Pentecost, Peter was fearless.  He was beaten, thrown in prison and  forbidden to preach about Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  But when ordered to stand before the Pharisees and scribes, including the High Priest, Peter boldly preached Jesus to them, and accused them, to their faces, of crucifying the Son of God. 

Peter was a changed man after he received God’s breath of holiness. 


If we can only survive a month or two – at the most – without food, and only 3-10 days – at the most – without water, and 3 – 22 minutes – at the most – without air (breath), we must understand that these are the physical requirements of our physical body to sustain physical life. 

But almost everyone, including virtually all Christians, is unaware of the spiritual implications of these physical factors.  God could have created humanity a million different ways.  But God made it imperative for us to stay alive specifically by breathing air, drinking water, and eating food. 

We eat three meals per day.  The total time it takes to eat three meals per day is approximately 45-60 minutes total – each day - to nourish our physical life. 

But how much time do we spend each day nourishing our spiritual life, as Jesus said, by “eating His flesh” - by feeding on the Word – Jesus Christ? 

We drink – or should drink – ten glasses of water each day.  That’s about one 8 oz glass every 1.5 hours we are awake. 

How much do we drink each day of the “water of life” – Jesus Christ – in order to keep our spiritual life from dehydration and death? 

We breathe continuously every day, whether awake or asleep. We can’t go more than about 3 minutes without breathing - or we will die.  How much of each day must we “breathe in” God’s breath of holiness, filling our life with the presence and character of Jesus Christ? 

The Bible tells us to “Pray without ceasing” just as we must “Breathe without ceasing.” 

God designed human beings to understand the absolute requirement of the physical: physical food, physical water, and physical breath, at designated frequent intervals, so we could understand how these physical factors correlate with the required “spiritual” food, spiritual water and spiritual breath, which are just as mandatory to keep us alive and healthy spiritually. 

Christians think that if they go to church an hour on Saturday – or Sunday (for those who are even less aware) – and (some) for a meeting midweek, they are in great shape spiritually.  But obviously, that’s not sufficient.  We become spiritually Dead! 

We must spend our waking hours of the 24 hours of the Sabbath, from Friday evening at sundown to Saturday evening at sundown, with Jesus Christ, studying and learning about Him.  In addition, we must spend an appropriate amount of time every day of the week, in addition to the Sabbath, studying God’s word and praying. 

Daniel prayed three times a day: morning, noon and night.  Daniel 6:10 

To “Pray without ceasing” means that we are to be in constant contact with God.  This is well- illustrated by a 2 year old child’s relationship with his mother.  He can play on his own or with others for a time, but he wants his mother close by.  And when anything bad – or good – happens, he runs directly to her. 

That’s why Jesus said we must come to Him like “little children” – a little child who trusts his parents with everything in his life.  A 2-year old child doesn’t worry about where his next meal is coming from, or whether he will have clothes to wear the next day, or what he will do the next day.  He trusts his mother and father to provide for him. 

God says, “Turn to Me and be healed (and saved).”  (Isaiah 45:22)  The words healed and saved are the same word in Greek – sozo). 

People make sure they eat, drink, and breathe because they want to stay alive physically.  But they give God short-shrift with the spiritual correlates, and thus rob themselves of their spiritual life.  They are alive to the world – but dead to Jesus Christ. 

In this sin-sick world, do you really think it takes less time to stay alive and healthy “spiritually” than it takes to stay alive and healthy physically? 

How much time do YOU spend with the Lord every day?