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Breath Prayer


Breath and breathing are the most essential actions in our lives. If we stop breathing, we stop living. It is our first action on the day we are born and our final act when we die. Breath also plays a central role in Scripture too, from the very beginning in which God breathes life into human form and throughout the text, which Paul describes in 2 Timothy as "God-breathed." Even the words for "spirit" in Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma) can also mean "breath." Breath is not only essential to our physical existence but to our spiritual wellbeing, too.

The Breath Prayer that we know today originated with the Desert Mothers and Fathers as a way to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Considered foundational to contemplation and a way to cultivate silence and attention, the Desert Mothers and Fathers would take a short excerpt of Scripture, breathing in with the first part of the text and breathing out with the next, repeating this pattern for extended periods of time.

Breath Prayer is as informal as they come, requiring only a simple phrase and your breath. While it is valuable when practiced in silence and solitude for an extended period of time, it can also be practiced during everyday tasks, such as washing dishes or driving somewhere, allowing the most mundane moments of the day to be realized as the most sacred.

The Practice

  1. Take a few deep breaths, become still, calm, and peaceful and open to the presence of God. Let your thoughts flow from your head to your heart.

  2. Select the name you are most comfortable using to address God.

  3. Imagine that God is calling you by name. "(Your name) what do you want?" With a few words respond from your heart.

  4. Combine your invocation for God with your response to "What do you want?"

  5. Inhale your invocation for God; exhale your desire.

  6. Continue for a set period of time or until you feel you've reached a sense of inner stillness as you are in the presence of God.

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