Breath Prayers have become a survival tool in my life. I share them from time to time on social media tucked into pretty, shareable graphics but they are so much more than fun prose!
What is Breath Prayer?
Similar to praying scripture back to God or using verses as positive daily affirmations, breath prayers use the Word of God to change your perspective quickly and authoritatively.
The way breath prayers differ from these other methods is that they break down a verse, making it into a centering phrase to be used with mindful breathing. One portion of the verse is recited upon an inhale, with the remainder being recited on an exhale. For example, breathe in, “Peace.” Breathe out, “Be still.”
Connecting with God
God is with us in all things. All things. The good and the bad. The things we wish we could change. And the things we wish we could make last just a moment longer for fear we’ll never make it if not.
Abiding in Christ and praying without ceasing are ways we can connect with God in ordinary moments. Here at Holistic Faith Lifestyle, this intentional connection is referred to as “seeking sacred in the everyday”. Breath prayer is a wonderfully spiritual, yet practical way for us to carry this from a mere desire into a strong spiritual discipline.
Breathing and Spirituality
In the Old and New Testaments, the words “breath” and “spirit” are closely connected. There are two words used in the Bible that refer to the spirit as breath or wind; “Ruah” in the Old Testament and “Pneuma” in the New Testament.
Ruah is the God-breathed, creative start to life. Remember that in the telling of Creation, God created Adam from dust and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). That holy breath transferred directly from The Source into humanity brought life! For Adam and Eve and each of us after, the spiritual portion of our makeup is a God-given gift. Breathe in that goodness!
Coupling the benefits of mindful breathing with an intentional connection to God make breath prayers a powerful prayer for rescue.
The Jesus Prayer Meditation
The origin of breath prayers is traced back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers. About three centuries after Jesus’s death and resurrection, and the intense persecution of his followers, the church began to adapt to Roman culture. The Desert Fathers and Mothers were a group that set out into the Egyptian desert to put space between them and the changing church. It is said that the first breath prayer, also called the Jesus Prayer, was, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Sometimes this is expanded to, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” And just as often, it is abbreviated to, “Lord, have mercy.”
Breath Prayer Instructions
Breath prayers are great anytime including those instances where you need short prayers for anxiety. Training your spirit to seek God as soon as you feel anxious, begins with routinely seeking God in times of low-stress, which is a relative term, I know!
There are many ways to personalize breath prayers. Since this is an instinctive way of connecting with God, it may serve you best to find a still, quiet place to rest in the presence of God. Without any words at all, just focus on your breath, or your God-given spirit and how it is connects you to your Creator. Notice the rhythm of your breath and how it happens without you having to do anything.
What verses does the Holy Spirit bring to mind? What promises can you cling to? If nothing specific comes up, rest in knowing God has you covered. You are hemmed in behind and before (Psalm 139:3-5) and nothing separates you from the love of Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).
On the go, and in moments of stress, breath prayers are as simple as breathing. Inhaling and exhaling as you break the phrase apart or even simpler, just slowing down your breath and you pray! Here’s a guided Christian meditation YouTube video using this minimalist approach.
If you like, you can also incorporate movement to make this a full mind, body, and spirit exercise.
Here are basic steps with additional movements to get you started with the art of mindfulness and Breath Prayers.
- Select a verse that can be said as a prayer in one breath. You may want to choose from the examples below.
- Sit comfortably and as with meditating, notice your breath. Begin to let the rhythm of your inhale and exhale slow down. If it feels comfortable, close your eyes.
- Think of the inhale, as breathing in God’s spirit. Hold your breath deeply and think of God’s spirit saturating every cell as the oxygen filters through your body. On the exhale think of surrendering and expelling anything that puts distance between you and God.
- Open your hands and place them palms up on your lap, representing an openness to God. As you inhale the beginning of your chosen verse, you may like to pull your hands toward your chest as a bodily expression of breathing in God’s spirit. Hold the breath for a few counts with your hands at your chest. As you exhale the second half of your verse, gently place your hands palms faced down on your lap. This hand placement signifies your surrender and grounding or anchoring in God’s loving redemption and the peace that brings.
15 Breath Prayer Examples
As shown above, the Jesus Prayer is touted as the first breath prayer.
To do this, inhale, “Lord Jesus”. Exhale, “Have mercy.”
Here are 14 others you may like to use as short prayers for anxiety. They are separated into two segments; the first for the inhale and the second for the exhale. Don’t forget to hold your breath for just a few seconds between the segments. This mindful breathing exercise coupled with prayer is great for fighting anxiety.
Peace. Be still. – from Mark 4:39, ESV
Speak Lord. I am listening. – from 1 Samuel 3:9
You are the Potter. I am the Clay. – from Isaiah 64:8
You, Lord are my shield. And the lifter of my head. – from Psalm 3:3
I am anxious for nothing. I give thanks and make my needs known to you. – from Philippians 4:6
You satisfy me with good things. And I am renewed. – from Psalm 103:1-5
I serve with the strength God provides. To God be the glory. -from 1 Peter 4:11
My flesh and heart may fail. But God is my strength forever. -from Psalm 73:26
You are doing a new thing. Let me perceive it! – from Isaiah 43:19
Keeping my eyes on what is unseen // I do not lose heart. -from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Lord, shine your face on me. Lord, give me peace. -from Numbers 6:25-28
When I am afraid // I put my trust in you. -from Psalm 56:3
My heart steadily trusts in God alone. I have no fear of bad news. -from Psalm 112:7-8
Yahweh Breath Prayer
The 15th breath prayer on our list is the Yahweh Breath Prayer. Recited with “Yah” on the inhale and “Weh” on the exhale, this one soothes like no other.
Though there is no literal translation for the Hebrew word, Yahweh, God used it interchangeably with “I Am.” Using the Yahweh breath prayer reminds us God is The Wholly Other who is independent of all outside sources. When we are anxious over actual or potential disappointment in the world as a whole or those around us, this Yahweh breath prayer brings stability.
It is excellent as a standalone prayer! When you have time though, give this guided Christian meditation YouTube video a try. Based on the Yahweh Breath Prayer, it adds a body scan to support relaxation during the day or to prepare you for sleep.
No matter how familiar you are with breath prayers, I hope these samples and verses aid you in growing your meditation practice, seeking sacred in the everyday, and praying without ceasing!
How do you pray when you’re anxious? Do you have a go-to breath prayer? Share your wisdom below!
And be blessed!