breath prayers

Last Sunday, I mentioned the prayer tradition of “breath prayers” during our prayer time in worship. As the name indicates, they are prayers that can be said, more or less, in one breath. I lean on breath prayers quite a bit in my praying. I appreciate them because they help center me, in at least two ways.

First, repeating them, gradually more slowly and deliberately can settle my spirit down before God. Second, repeating them can help their truth sink in more deeply, helping me hear what God wants to say to me through them more clearly. Parenthetically, modern worship songs that make use of repeating a phrase or a line, at their best are tapping into this centuries-old prayer tradition. Repetition can be rote or meditative, one’s spirituality about it plays a significant role in determining which.

Another nice feature of breath prayers is their simplicity. Here are some breath prayers I pray often.

The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

A Baptismal Covenant Prayer: “Holy Spirit, work within me (this day), that I may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”

A Formation Prayer for Reading Scripture (inspired by Jer. 31:33): “Write your Word on my heart, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that I may be formed into the likeness of Christ, for the sake of your glory and the sake of your world.”

A Prayer Rooted in Holy Communion: “As you have given yourself for us, send us forth in the strength of your Spirit to give ourselves for others, in the name of Christ.”

The Psalms: Bonhoeffer called the psalms “The Prayerbook of the Church.” Predictable, but I’ve found Psalm 23 a wonderful and challenging psalm for phrase contemplation and prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Again, predictable, but praying the Lord’s Prayer while contemplating it phrase by phrase will rock our worlds if we will let it… perhaps even if we try not to allow it…

The Apostles’ Creed: For prayer? Sure. Prayerful affirmation of, and simple meditation on, the central doctrines of Christianity can be powerful.

A Prayer for Humility from St Teresa of Avila: “Grant us, my God, to understand how little we understand ourselves and how empty our hands are when we come to thee that thou, of thy mercy, mayest forgive us.”

A Blessing Prayer from St Teresa of Avila: “Blessed and praised be the Lord, from whom comes all the good that we speak and think and do. Amen.”

What verses/quotes for breath prayers come to your mind?

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3 thoughts on “breath prayers

  1. –Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us

    –O God, be gracious to me, a sinner, and have mercy upon me.

    There’s another, called the Prayer of St. Ephraim. It’s pretty long, but so is the Lord’s Prayer. It goes like this:

    Oh Lord, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
    Give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant.
    Yea, O Lord, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother,
    for You are blessed unto ages of ages, amen.

    I really like that one. Particularly the part about seeing my own transgressions and not judging my brother. That’s a hard one, and a good reminder.

  2. That was interesting! I have experienced the calming down , and feeling of his power when we say the Apostle creed during the service! I was raised in our lovely church.. I as a kid, I simply memorized those words, and up until now do I truly understand!
    My breath prayer, would be one that is not quiet,
    for when I have said something I shouldn’t of…(imagine that?) If I repent right then , outloud, which is what he had asked of me to do, I ask for forgiveness, this has really humbled me

    , and now I Actually
    ually the.k before I speak!

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