As a beginner with meditation, I often struggle to remember to turn to Christ in the middle of my day, know what to say, get quiet as life happens around me . . . it can be a lot to balance when you’re just starting out!
But all I need to do is breathe. Just. Breathe.
Breath Prayer Definition
Intentional breathing is now a vital part of my meditation practice since I’ve worked to make this a way of life. Breath prayers (AKA meditations) are an ancient Christian technique for stilling yourself in the presence of the Lord. I know, many other traditions focus on breath, so it may feel odd to practice it in our Christian life. But please don’t dismiss it; it has a very long tradition in our faith as well. The difference is that our goal is not to focus on ourselves for mindfulness, self-awareness or emptiness, but instead, it’s to allow the rhythm of our breaths to help us become still and aware of God.
The basic premise is to use a simple prayer, said out loud or in your mind, in combination with breath. For example:
Inhale: “Be Still”
Exhale: “And Know”
Inhale: “He is my shepherd”
Exhale: “I shall not want”
Though very similar, I’ve come to create my own method of breath prayer that incorporates my morning devotion time with silence.
Personalize Your Breath Prayers
If you’ve been following along with our weekly meditations, you’ll notice that I often point out the word or phrase that speaks the most to me. These become my breath prayers and are what I’m referring to when I encourage you to turn to the Lord in the midst of your day. It’s important for you work with the Holy Spirit to find your own small, but powerful, few words, because when you create your own prayer, you’re better able to connect with it.
During my longer morning times with the Lord, I slowly read through the whole verse and pause often for the Spirit to guide me with visualizations, reflection questions, and silence. And then I ask what parts I should bring with me all day. One verse can provide many different breath prayers for different days, and even different seasons in life. Because I’ve taken the time to focus on the whole verse, and often the lengthier passage that contains the verse, these smaller clips are filled with context and personal application.
Breath Prayer Example
Let’s take Mark 4:20 for example: “And those like seed sown on good ground hear the word, welcome it, and produce fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred times what was sown.” –Jesus.
In the mornings, I’ll work through the verse slowly as you can see in this Monday Meditation post. Then through the day, my breath prayer may be:
Inhale: “hear the word”
Exhale: “welcome it”
Inhale: “welcome the word”
Inhale: “produce fruit”
Exhale: “more than was sown”
The Importance of Silence
I regularly add-in silent breaths to just sit in His presence, and often the prayer is on the inhalation with silence during the exhalation. It’s so important for us to listen and not just talk or think all the time, but it can be a real challenge to quiet our minds. And that’s where breath comes in:
Pray your breath prayer. Be silent. Let that silence last one breath at first. Then lift up your breath prayer again.
Then be silent again. Let that silence grow naturally to two breaths, then three. Then lift up your breath prayer again.
Kids talking . . . phone chiming . . . TV going . . . to-do list rolling through your head . . . . Breathe in and out. Lift up your meditation.
Depending on how much time you have at that moment, you can stretch those silences for a few minutes at a time. But sometimes, all you can do is offer up a single breath prayer in the moment, thank God for being with you, and move on. That’s OK.
With these few, personal words, I’m better able to quickly and deeply focus on Christ no matter what’s going on in my worldly life. I hope you start practicing prayerful breathing–it’s a powerful tool!
I’d love to hear how this technique helps you, or what you may be struggling with. Always feel free to email me directly; I return every message I get!
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