What is Breath Prayer?

Morning was making it's way, slow, into my room. Was it 5:00 am? It seemed so. Except for the breathing of my spouse beside me, the whole house sat quiet.

And I was drifting in my thoughts. About breath prayer.

"Breathe in a name for God," I remembered Adele Calhoun's counsel from her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. "Breathe out a deep desire of your heart."

In the stillness of my room, where night still clung to the walls, trying to hide from day's advance, I had no particular desires. But soon a small prayer drifted in.

I breathed in... Lover of my Soul

I breathed out... give me lovingkindness.

It was a prayer given for the day, before the day came. A prayer I knew, upon later waking to true day, that I would need. Busy day, Little One up early and too chatty, me feeling like I want to be alone. Everything sounding too loud, looking too bright, feeling too constrictive. Me wanting to pick at people or push them out. Leave me alone!

Breath prayer. A simple prayer to repeat in time of need. To remind me, in a single cycle of breathing, that God is "nearer to [me] than [my] own breath" (Calhoun, p.205) Breath prayer. A simple prayer to remember who God is and what God might do.

Lover of my Soul, give me lovingkindness.

Lover of my Soul, give me lovingkindness.

Lover of my Soul, give me lovingkindness...

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Blogger Rudy said...

I read about breath prayers from Pastor Rick's book The Purpose Driven Life. It's actually very effective. He said in the book:

The bible tells us to "pray all the time". How is it possible to do this? One way is to use "breath prayers" throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath: "You are with me." "I receive your grace." "I'm depending on you." "I want to know you." "I belong to you." "Help me trust you." You can also use a short phrase of Scripture: "For me to live is Christ." "You will never leave me." "You are my God." Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart. Just be sure that your motive is to honor God, not control him.

Blogger Karis said...

I was also attracted to the idea of breath prayers--the relaxation I need so much, the focus... But something in me also signalled a warning. Having grown up in Japan, a secular buddhist/shinto nation, and having recently returned from 2.5 years in Budhhist Thailand, for some reason this felt very "Buddhist" to me.

Any kind of rhythmic, repetitive meditation is known to bring about an altered state similar to mind-altering drugs. These can eventually open the doorways to dark spiritual forces. The Bible clearly teaches against "vain repetition." If we research the lives of the desert fathers and other well-respected catholic leaders, we find some very disturbing things: wearing barbed wire under their clothes, letting maggots eat their flesh, drinking pus... I'll stop here, but you can do your own research. My point is, they lost sight of the simple (though profound!) salvation offered by Jesus, once and for all, without the need for us to daily punish ourselves for sins.

Anytime we say "Regular prayer and reading the Bible is not enough," we insult Jesus, who taught us how to pray and never encouraged breath-prayers.

It may be possible to practice "breath prayer" with no ill effects. But in my research, this often leads to more and more New Age-type practices, to an idea that I already AM God, and that all roads lead to the same place (in terms of different faiths).

Let us not encourage this kind of untruth, but uphold that Jesus IS enough, and that we don't need drugs or drug-like mind-altered states in order to know He is with us, and how much He loves us--He already showed us on the cross.

My best wishes for your walk with the Lord!


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