Hit the pause button!
For just a minute in the midst of your hurry-scurry of reading blog posts, responding to emails and juggling your to-do list, stop.
Take a deep breath.
- Breath in – feeling the external air enter your lungs.
- Breath out – exhaling the internal.
- Air inward.
- Air outward.
Breathing is so intuitive and intimate.
Both conscious and unconscious.
Lifegiving and life transformational.
Breathing and praying share many of the same characteristics.
- Breath God in.
- Breath ego, worry, fear out.
God surrounds us like air – invisible, life-giving, all around and within. We are like fish in the sea wondering what water really is. This powerful force sustaining and nurturing us on our journey.
The Bibles teaches us to “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) How do we do this?
One type of prayer that has helped Christians across the ages to fulfill this command is breath prayers.
A breath prayer is a very short prayer that can be said in one breath and repeated throughout the day. It is an ancient form of prayer, found in writings as early as the second century. The prayer communicates a sense of nearness with trust and dependency on God.
Perhaps the best-known breath prayer is called the Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
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 become 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.
Discover Your Own Prayers
Discovering your own breath prayer is another approach. Often people find certain scriptures become breath prayers or even just one or two words, like “peace’ or “Jesus.”
Sample breath prayers are:
- Show me your way, O Lord.
- Give me strength, O Christ.
- Father, show me your love.
- The Lord is my shepherd
- My God and my All. (Saint Francis)
- Come, Lord Jesus!
- I love you, Lord
- Holy one, heal me.
- Holy Wisdom, Guide me.
“This way of simple prayer, when we are faithful to it and practice it at regular times, slowly leads us to an experience of rest and opens us to God’s active presence. Moreover, we can take this prayer with us into a very busy day. When, for instance, we have spent twenty minutes in the early morning sitting in the presence of God with the words “The Lord is my Shepherd” they may slowly build a little nest for themselves in our heart and stay there for the rest of our busy day. Even while we are talking, studying, gardening, or building, the prayer can continue in our heart and keep us aware of God’s ever-present guidance. The discipline is not directed toward coming to a deeper insight into what it means that God is called our Shepherd, but toward coming to the inner experience of God’s shepherding action in whatever we think, say or do.”
We are created for companionship with God. God does want to connect with us on a moment-by-moment basis. When we pray once a week or even once a day, we fail to take advantage of everything God has for us. Breath prayers are a great way to keep in contact with our Heavenly Father throughout our day.
Anthony DeMello tells this story:
Said one traveler to another, ”I have come a great distance to listen to the words of the Teacher, but I find his words quite ordinary.”
“Don’t listen to his words. Listen to his message.”
“How does one do that?”
“Take hold of a sentence that he says. Shake it well till all the words drop off. What is left will set your heart on fire.”
Set your heart on fire this week through prayer.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the LORD.
If you want to learn more I wrote a book about breath prayers called Whispers – Being With God in Breath Prayers. Right now till July 5, the e-book version is available on Amazon for only 99 cents.
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?