Spirit, give me eyes to see, ears to hear.
Known as the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart” to early practitioners, the breath prayer is an ancient Christian practice that dates back to the sixth century. This prayer is often associated with the Eastern Church, more specifically Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.
Traditionally, this prayer was repetition of Bartimaeus’s prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” and spoken within the rhythm of the breath. Reciting a prayer with the rhythm of the breath is a good way to “pray without ceasing,” as Paul encourages us to do. The words to each breath prayer can be adjusted to your heart’s desire.
Breath prayer is intended to be a prayer that comes, not from your mind, but from the depth of your heart’s desire and need. This six to eight syllable prayer is powerful because it is made up of your heart’s deepest yearning and the name for God that you find most intimate and meaningful. You are calling out praise in your word for the Divine, and then your request or intention are the words that follow.
The breath prayer can be said quietly within, or it can be sung or chanted. Express your prayer in a way that is easy to speak in the steady rhythm of your breathing. There may be various ways of saying your prayer, and you may want to write them down until you have a prayer about six to eight syllables.
Once you have discovered your breath prayer, pray it into the spaces of your day—when you are waiting, when you are worried or anxious when you need a sense of God’s presence. Over time this prayer will become as natural as breathing, and you will find you are praying without ceasing in a way that has deep meaning and power.
- Allow yourself to become still and open to the presence of God.
- With your eyes closed, return to the story of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) and imagine God is calling you by name asking you what you want. Allow your answer to come from deep within you and express it to God. Your answers will serve as the foundation of your breath prayer.
- Select the name that is most comfortable and meaningful to you for God. Combine it with what you expressed you wanted or desired. This is your prayer.
- Breathe in the first phrase/word (generally calling out to God’s name) and breathe out the second phrase/word (heart’s desire or need).
You may have different breath prayers for different circumstances, or you may stick with the same breath prayer on a consistent basis. There is no one right way to practice, and no limit to developing each breath prayer. It is a simple, yet very powerful prayer practice.
Sample Breath Prayers
- Holy One, let me feel your love.
- Wisdom, guide me.
- Jesus, shine your healing light.
- Lord, show me your way.
- Mother/Father, may your presence be felt.