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On Sunday, Pastor Donnell spoke about the Holy Spirit. During the sermon, he had us take a few minutes to be aware of our breathing and to imagine that each breath in symbolized letting God into ourselves, while each breath out represented our letting go of that within us which is not of God.

This week, we will simply continue with this exercise. It requires the use of your imagination and some amount of preparation would likely be helpful. You might consider performing this exercise several times this week, turning this into a prayer habit.

When you have some time to pray, find a safe, quiet place (indoors or out) where you won’t be interrupted. Consider the fact that you are alive, that your heart beats every second or two without you thinking about it. While you can and will be aware of your breathing during this time, your body also breathes through the night while you are asleep. Now picture God (Jesus, the Holy Spirit) in your mind, present and attentive to you. Christians over the centuries have found it useful to use a word or simple phrase while praying quietly in this way. It could be simply “Jesus”, or Holy Spirit”, or “Father”. It could be “love”, “mercy”, “faith”, or “hope”. Say the word to yourself (or quietly out loud) when you breath in, then simply quietly breath out. The word or short phrase primarily helps to focus you mind on God and his presence and keep practical issues and distractions at bay. If this kind of prayer is new to you, you might set a timer for 2, 3, or 5 minutes so you can avoid focusing on the time, which can be a common distraction.

What is your basic attitude towards God at this moment when you start to pray (gratitude, hope, love, anxiety, frustration, etc.)? Whatever this feeling, see if you can relax about it, letting it slide into the background during this time of prayer. Simply be aware of God’s presence and his gift of life evidenced by your breathing.

If thoughts or feelings about your life, the day, challenging situations come to mind, this is normal. Simply acknowledge them, entrust them to God’s and your care until after your prayer and return to focusing on your breathing.

When your time of prayer is over, you might thank God via a simple prayer and jot down anything that seemed important from your prayer.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing:

2 thoughts on “Breathe

  1. Thank you for this VERY practical tip! I have been seeking for about 2 years for a deeper prayer life, not one that just lifts my requests to God, but one that allows God to speak to me. In the business of life, I feel like I rattle off a prayer and I’m done. I find it difficult to quiet my thoughts to listen and contemplate. I started using an iPhone app called Centering Prayer about 6 months ago. I find this app useful as well. Prayer beads help me focus, but not as much as the use of centered prayer.

    1. Debby, if you’re interested, join me and a few others for centering prayer together on Monday evenings over at St Mary’s Student Parish at William and Thompson at 6:30. I find this weekly ecumenical group to be a significant support to my personal prayer. We occasionally take day-retreats, too. Martha Balmer

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