The Breath Prayer as a Means of Grace

As our congregation carries our 2013 theme, Acts of Grace, into the season of Lent we will be exploring and experiencing various means of grace that help to guide and shape our journey to becoming deeply committed disciples of Jesus Christ. Means of Grace are spiritual practices that help us connect with God.  These spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines help us make space in our hearts and time in our lives for God.  These practices help us to connect to God and grow ever closer to the One who loves us. John Wesley taught extensively about these practices that keep us close and in right relationship with God. He called these practices the means of grace. They are spiritual practices that keep us centered in Christ and help us to maintain “holiness of heart and life.”

This Week’s Means of Grace:  The Breath Prayer

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing.”  But how do we do that?  How is this even possible?  The ancient prayer practice known as the breath prayer allows us to make prayer a natural part of our daily life.  Through this practice, prayer becomes as simple, as natural, as nourishing, soothing and as powerful as breathing!

The breath prayer is a prayer that helps us focus on God by using our breathing as a guide.  This very short prayer is a prayer of praise and petition consisting of from three to twelve syllables in two parts.

The first part is a praising name of God such as Lord Jesus, Abba, Almighty, King of Kings, Creator, Shepherd, Redeemer, Bread of Life, etc.  Spend some quiet time with the Lord and consider his great love for you.  What name comes to your heart and mind?

The second part of the prayer is a petition such as have mercy on me, hear my prayer, fill me with your peace, keep me safe, watch over me, forgive my sins, show me your way, lead and guide me, and so on.  What deep desire of your heart would you like to bring before God?

Putting the two parts together creates a simple but powerful prayer that you can keep in your heart and always have with you.  It is a prayer that is as simple and as close to you as breathing!  Slowly say the first part of the prayer as you breathe in.  Then slowly say the last part of the prayer as you exhale.  There is no hurry or rush; just relax and experience God’s abiding presence. Experiment with the following examples and then write your own breath prayer:

Holy God, help me live for you.
Abba, fill me with your peace.
Show me your way, O Lord.
Holy Spirit, lead and guide me.
Gracious God, give me strength.
Loving God, help me see the world as you do.
Creator, touch me with your joy.
 

A breath prayer can also be composed from your favorite scripture.  Some suggestions to consider include Psalm 46:10, Psalm 23:1, Luke 23:46, Psalm 31:5, Matthew 6:9, Luke 1:38, 1 Samuel 3:10, Psalm 136:1, Psalm 118:24, etc.  Ponder the beauty and meaning of these words as you slowly inhale and exhale as you pray.

One of the oldest and most practiced breath prayers is known as The Jesus Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Silently say the first part of the prayer as you breathe in: “Lord Jesus Christ.” Do this several times, imagining that you are breathing in the love, joy, and peace of the Lord Jesus.  After this, become aware of your breathing out and as you do so, silently say, “Have mercy on me.” Imagine all the impurities, fears, sins that you are putting in the way of God’s holy presence and breathe them out. The thought behind this prayer is that as one recites this prayer, the very depth of our being is penetrated and authentic Christ-like transformation takes place.

Additional prayer suggestions:

Get in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath, release it slowly. Concentrate on your breathing. Breathe normally and try not to change the rhythm of your breath. Focus on the air entering your body, then on the air being exhaled.

As you breathe in, concentrate on breathing in all that God gives you. Breathe in God’s presence, strength, grace, & healing. As you exhale, release all that burdens you. Breathe out your anger, frustration, stress, & regrets.  Breathe in God’s forgiveness. Breathe out your worries. Breathe in the breath of God. Breathe out the things that separate you from God. 

Just breatheFor additional reflection on the breath prayer, visit Faith UMC’s website and listen to Pastor Cara Stultz Costello’s sermon from February 24, Just Breathe – http://faithum.weebly.com/listen.html

We’d love to hear how you have experienced the breath prayer! Click ‘leave a comment’ and share your breath prayers!

 
 
May God richly bless you as you seek to experience means of grace and grow closer to Christ this Lent!
In Christ’s Love,
Kathy Schmucker, Director of Christian Education & Spiritual Formation
 
 
 
Suggested Resources:  Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson, Open Mind, Open Heart  by Thomas Keating, The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation: Leader’s Guide (Upper Room Books)
For additional information and resources, visit Faith UMC’s library and prayer room or contact Kathy Schmucker, Faith UMC’s Director of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation.
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About faithumchurch

Spiritual Formation Director at Faith United Methodist Church in North Canton, Ohio
This entry was posted in Discipleship, Lent, Spiritual Practices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Breath Prayer as a Means of Grace

  1. Pingback: Because you Asked – Prayers of the People – 8/26/2012 | The Ship's Blog

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