breath prayer & prayer of the heart

A simple 3 breath prayer –

One breath TO LET GO

One breath TO BE PRESENT

One breath to ask ‘WHAT’S NEXT?’

Breath Prayer

Our breath is as constant and as close as our hearts. In and out, in and out, in and out, the breath of life is continually refreshing and restoring us. We often take our breath for granted, so let us honor breath of life by pausing for a moment and offering a prayer of gratitude.  This attention serves to remind us of the closeness of the spirit, the wonder of life, and the longing of God to be in relationship with us. As we remember who and whose we are, we might imagine we are breathing out whatever is bothering us and breathing in whatever we need. When we consider our breath in this way, we are suddenly aware of how available and accessible God is in the very thing we do always – breathe. By your very breathing, you are praying and participating in receiving God’s grace.

Arrange yourself so that you that you can sit  comfortably for about 5 minutes. When you are ready, take a few deep breaths and attend gently to both the inhalation and the exhalation. Pay attention to the breath going in and out of your nose and mouth. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your chest and lungs… Play with deep and shallow breaths, slow and fast breaths, feeling your lungs expand and contact…. Gradually begin to imagine how each breath moves beyond your lungs and into your entire body…. Follow your breath down into your belly… into your legs… all the way to your toes….  Imagine your breath filling your shoulders… flowing down your arms and into your hands and fingertips… Imagine your breath soothing and easing your neck…circulating through your brain… massaging the space behind your eyes.

As you feel your breath in every part of your being, breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for the Breath of Life…. Be aware of the abundance of the air… the ease with which it flows into you… and how little thought you need to give for this life-giving gift…. Discover a word or phrase you can pray to the rhythm of your breathing.  Stay with your breathing and praying as long as you wish.  …  Then close your prayer in any way that seems right.

Prayer of the Heart

This is an ancient form that arose in the 4th century among church fathers and mothers as a way to ‘pray without ceasing (1Thess 5:17).

A  Russian pilgrim who traveled across Russia in the tenth century in search of the meaning of Paul’s instructions to pray always discovered that our hearts can teach us to pray without ceasing.  He found that if he repeated a simple prayer over and over again, day after day, the prayer would move from his mouth and his mind in to his heart. Once in the heart, the prayer would pray itself every second of every day as his heart beat steadily on.

Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.” (based on Ps 51:1, Mt15:22, Lk 18:13) The practice of ceaseless prayer by repeating phrases such as above, or: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” “Kyrie Eleison.”  Commit the phrase to memory. Practice the phrase until it becomes spontaneous mental prayer. This prayer is not a meditation or mantra, but rather part of our every breath and heart beat as we walk through our day.

Yahweh prayer.  Ancient Jews, and many modern Jews, consider the name of God to be so holy that we must not utter it.  This prayer honors that tradition and offers us a reminder of God’s presence always with us. Breathe the syllables with open mouth and lips, relaxed tongue:  Inhale – Yah; Exhale – weh.


The Way of the Pilgrim (or The Pilgrim’s Tale) – many translations are available of this Russian tale, including free downloads.

Praying with Body and Soul, Jane Vennard.

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