I teach Pilates at Oregon State University, and the first thing I teach my students is how to breathe intentionally through their exercise. They take a big breath in to prepare, and at the most difficult part of the exercise, they breath out. It seems simple, doesn’t it? But many of them comment that they didn’t realize that they often forget to breathe deeply and tend to hold their breath at the most difficult part of the movement. When they learned to focus more on intentional breathing, the exercise became much easier!
There is an analogy here. How many of us “hold our breath” with God during the difficult parts of our day? How many of us have held our breath as we have seen the tragedy unfold on the world stage in Ukraine? My breath prayer through the difficulties of more recent days has been the first phrase of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know. That I am God.” I love how the Message phrases it, “Step out of the traffic. Take a long loving look at me, your high God.” This has been a way for me to step out of the traffic and craziness that is unfolding before us, to look at God, and be reminded of His presence and sovereignty even when I don’t understand the craziness.
This prayer coupled with my breath is an example of the simple practice of breath prayer. Historically, breath prayer came out of the Psalms. People would pray a short phrase from a psalm to remind them of His presence. But it doesn’t have to be a psalm. It can be any part of Scripture, a worship song, or even a word that describes God’s character on the inhale and our affirmation or expression of our desire on the exhale like, “Gentle Shepherd (inhale), lead and guide me” (exhale). There is no “right way” to practice breath prayer. It is just a way to connect your mind, body, and soul to the presence of God.
I invite you to close your eyes and get comfortable in your chair. Put away anything that might distract you from giving your full attention to God, and just BREATHE slowly and recenter your scattered senses on the presence of God.
When you are ready, pray the first phrase in Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know (INHALE)
That I am God (EXHALE)
Now with the next few breaths say this silently in your heart to the Lord until you are ready to go on to other parts of your prayer or let that be it with an “Amen”.
It is that simple, but sometimes we don’t always pause long enough to enter into God’s presence before we launch into prayer. He is always present (like the air), but we don’t always “breathe” Him into our realization.
Here are some of my favorite resources with different suggestions for how to practice breath prayer. (And remember, there is no “right way” to practice it.):
Breath Prayer in the Tool Shed of the Prayer Course from 24-7 Prayer.
Breath Prayer handout from Christ Church of Oak Brook.
Breath Prayer YouTube Playlist from Southridge Community Church in Canada – guided breath prayers. They are lovely.
Also, I have Breath Prayers for different Enneagram types. Contact me, and I will send it to you.
Praying you will breathe in His presence deeply today (and everyday),