Breath Prayers

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the LORD. Psalm 150:6

Have you heard of “Breath Prayers?”
Breath prayers are short prayers said in one breath. Simple, repetitive and surprisingly ancient. The breath prayer generally involves quietly repeating a chosen phrase for several minutes, allowing the prayer to take on the shape of one’s breathing so that the words accompany every breath.
Examples of common breath prayers are “In you, Lord, I put my trust,” “Help me understand your ways, Lord,  Lord I am yours,” and “My Lord and my God.” The idea is to pick a meaningful phrase and repeat it until it becomes a part of your being.
Perhaps the most famous breath prayer is the Jesus Prayer. This prayer goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ” (while breathing in), “have mercy on me, a sinner” (while breathing out). This is done repeatedly until all is stilled within your heart.
In the 19th century, an unknown Russian peasant told the story of his search to learn to pray without ceasing in the book, The Way of the Pilgrim. Once he learned the Jesus Prayer, he prayed it continuously until the words becomes such a part of him he was in prayer whether awake or asleep.
The Jesus Prayer grew out of Luke 18:13. Prayers that use breathing this way probably go far back in history, with early breath-prayers based on the refrains of the Psalms. They are brief, simple expressions of the longings of the heart.
Breath prayers can be helpful when you just don’t know what to pray, like in times of spiritual dryness or difficulties. This prayer expresses dependence and trust in God that often produces a calm and a sense of nearness to the Lord.
“Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Wouldn’t it be delightful to be in prayer as intimately and regularly as breathing? What is your favorite breath prayer and how has it helped you?

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  • Connie Arnold

    That’s a beautiful concept in your post, Jean! I guess what I most often repeat but wouldn’t have thought to call it a breath prayer is “I love you, adore you, praise and worship you, most holy, holy, holy Lord.”

  • Jean Wise

    Thanks for all the nice comments. I feel like I am walking with Christians brothers and sisters on our journeys. good suggestions here also.

  • Islandsparrow

    Have you read Elizabeth Goudge’s book Scent of Water? It’s one of my favourites. I love this quote about about prayer from it: “There are three necessary prayers and they have three words each. They are these, ‘Lord, have mercy. Thee I adore. Into Thy hands.’ Not difficult to remember. If in times of distress you hold to these, you will do well.”

    Glad I found your blog!

  • Graceful

    I never heard of the breath prayer — but I really like the concept. Sort of like a Christian mantra. I’m going to think on it and see what I can come up with.

  • Clella

    Good post. Not familiar with this idea, but when I think about it mine is “I can do all things” “through Christ who gives me strength” Over and over -many times.

  • AveryHome

    Awesome… I’m going to try this! Thanks for sharing!

  • Karen

    Great post, Jeanie. I think mine must be, He gives grace for the moment.

  • Colleen

    Oh I love this! I love the Jesus prayer and pray it often. Thanks.