breathe rock

The essential practice of Breath Prayer

by Teresa Blythe

Prayer is how we connect most intimately with our still-speaking-God. For the next few months, I’ll be offering you some prayer practices that I hope will provide some variety to your regular spiritual practice. One of the most beloved styles of prayer is the breath prayer.

If we think of God being as close to us as our very breath, then breath prayer is a natural.

Breath and spirit are closely linked in both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament.  In the book of Job, Elihu tells Job, “the spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life,” and in the gospel of John, when Jesus appeared to the disciples after resurrection he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

We, too, can link breath to spirit with intentionality. One breath prayer that is simple and effective is one that you create for yourself. Follow the steps listed below and then carry your breath prayer around with you for a few days.

  1. Begin with intention. Ask God to help you form this breath prayer.
  2. Ponder your favorite name for God. For some it might be God, others prefer using the name of Jesus, Sophia, Wisdom, Pure Love, Holy Spirit, Source of Life, Ground of our Being, Higher Power—you name it (literally!). Choose the name or image for the Holy One that resonates deeply with you.
  3. Reflect for a moment on what it is you need or what you may want to express in your breath prayer. Come up with a short phrase that fits. It should be short enough to say in one breath.
  4. You will put these two together in any way you prefer. I’ll give some examples of this kind of breath prayer so you know what I mean.

Freedom, in Christ

God, grant us peace

Lord, hear my prayer

Help me follow you, Higher Power

Heal me, Loving God

  1. Once you determine what your breath prayer is, you inhale on part one, and exhale on part two. Allow the breath to carry the words along with it. Say the prayer over and over (silently or aloud), like a mantra. Before long, you will find you are “breathing the prayer.”  Allow the breath prayer to gently lead you to that place of inner silence and calm—the place where you don’t need to say the words any more. This is known as the place of contemplation.
  2. If you want, write your breath prayer on a small piece of paper and carry it with you as a reminder to keep breathing and praying.

You may find that a breath prayer helps you breathe more easily through your day. Feel free to change your breath prayer from time to time to suit your life’s circumstances. Or you may feel so connected to your original one that you use it exclusively to lead you into contemplative silence. You can do what you want with it. God gave you the prayer for the good of you and the world.

Perhaps you need assistance with your prayer practices or would like accompaniment on your spiritual path. Consider spiritual direction—the ancient practice of checking in with a trained spiritual guide who will deeply listen and offer observations, reflections and questions to draw out your own wisdom. For information about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website.