How to Pray with Your Breath

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Life in the Spirit is freeing! “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17) One of the best ways to experience that is through prayer, breath prayer specifically.

Wind, like the Spirit, moves wherever it wills mysteriously

The word for spirit in both Hebrew and Greek (the two primary languages scripture is written in) is also used for wind and breath (ruach in Heb, pneuma in Grk). While that may surprise or puzzle an English speaker (given we have several distinct words for these different things), it points us to a common perception. For ancient people, things of the spirit or of the spiritual realm were related to and often illustrated by the breath and the wind, two things that are unseen but are vital to life and existence.

Stay with me on this. Jesus actually drew out the comparison in his own teaching. In John 3, Jesus taught Nicodemus about the new birth and in the process he gives an analogy for how the Spirit moves like the wind–and we really can’t explain either one very well (John 3:5-8). It’s also not a mere coincidence that when the Holy Spirit came with power on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 there was a sound like a mighty roaring windstorm (Acts 2:2).

Further, after his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples several times. On one occasion that John records, he speaks a word of peace on them, then he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22) Again, it’s not just a coincidence because God is the one who first breathed the breath of life into Adam after making him out of clay. (Gen 2:7)

Breath Prayer

The purpose of this is not to go into a full, extended study, but to point to something that might help your prayer life. One way to pray, to speak to God “in the spirit”, is through purposeful and mindful breathing. That doesn’t mean labored or loud breathing. In fact, calm and centered breathing that helps us to settle into and accept God’s peace is preferable.

Sit in a comfortable position. Relax any tension that you are aware of in your body. One way to check is to tense every muscle you can consciously control and then consciously relax it. Typical places that we carry or store tension are in our head (especially in the face, temples or jaws), the neck, the shoulders, the chest, the abdomen, and the buttocks. Let go of tension in all of these places.

Then, just breathe a little slower, a little deeper and enjoy the clarity it brings to your mind. As you breathe, put your attention on God and welcome his presence. A very simple prayer to pray as you breathe is “Thank You.” There are other prayers to pray such as “Jesus” or “Spirit” or “Father”. Any of these are a good start.

You are free of the need to talk, think or carry on a long dialogue. Just use your breath and one or two words, repeated calmly, and let that be your prayer to God. Continue it for one minute, five minutes, or more if you like.

This kind of prayer is powerful, but it really defies explanation in words. I encourage you to try it. If you would like more of an explanation of what science has found that backs up this process, I suggest you read this article on Breath Prayer by Nancy Wiens.

Prayer is really simple and elemental, as basic as breathing and letting God’s Spirit blow new life into you.

Peace be with you.