Why Learning to Breathe May Be the Best Way to Pray (on RELEVANT Magazine)

I am a therapist, and my job often entails sitting across from hurt-hardened humans on their last leg of hope. 

Sometimes their exasperation momentarily silences the hope in my soul; their seething hostility clouds my sense of wisdom for what could possibly shatter the block of ice keeping them arctic and separated.

But then I remember—I can breathe. In through my nose, out through my mouth: Lord, have mercy.

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING

At any moment, whether in a tense therapy session or in the peril of hitting every red light on the way home, if I remember to breathe, I can access the loving heart of God. Breath prayer, an ancient Christian prayer practice with origins in the lives of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, is a vehicle we can use to live out Scripture’s call to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

There, in my therapy room, when I silently turn my attention to the most basic function of living—breathing—I can acknowledge my great need for God to equip me with wisdom and courage. Breath prayer simultaneously relaxes my overwhelmed body and fills me with confidence in being a conduit of God’s love and mercy.