How to Use Breath Prayer: a simple guide to help you incorporate breath prayer into your daily life
Here’s something most people might not know about me: I struggle with anxiety, and breath prayer is one of the many practices I’ve learned that has helped me cope and heal.
I’m the kind of person who tends to bottle up my emotions, not knowing how to process the negativity and the hurt as it comes. I typically mask this by telling myself I’m strong enough to handle everything on my own, but the truth is, I’m not.
My brain and my body struggle to understand that emotions outside of just being “ok” are allowed to be felt and accepted fully.
One of the many ways those bottled-up emotions like to display themselves is in the form of anxiety and the occasional panic attack.
Can you relate?
If you can, I stand in solidarity with you, friend, and acknowledge that we are works in progress – and that’s ok.
In a world that praises an overloaded schedule and overwhelmed soul, it can be hard to slow down long enough to seek still moments and behold God with us in the everyday.
A little over a year ago, when my anxiety was at its highest and my faith walk was at its driest, I discovered the Christian spiritual practice of breath prayer.
It was as if my thirsty soul had finally found reprieve from the heat and underlying tension that always seemed to simmer beneath the surface of my life, and I discovered a simple yet powerful way to slow down and connect with God no matter where I am or what I’m doing.
It completely changed the way I view prayer and drew me deeper in my relationship with God, and I pray that it would do the same for you.
A Simple Guide to Breath Prayer
In his book, Pray Like You Breathe, Houston Heflin explains that some people believe breath prayers began with the repeating prayers of the Psalms. To further prove this, he points to the repetition of this phrase in Psalms 42:5, 42:11, and 43:5,
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (NIV)
This makes sense because breath prayer essentially is picking a short phrase or scripture, syncing it to the natural rhythm of your breath, and then repeating it inwardly as often as you want to throughout the day.
Now, let’s go step by step together on how to implement the Christian spiritual practice of breath prayer.
Choose Your Breath Prayer
As I said earlier, you can use any short phrase or Scripture and turn it into a breath prayer. For me, I tend to choose phrases or Scriptures that line up with what I’m needing to receive from the Lord at that moment or in a certain season.
For example, I may want to offer up a prayer of thanks or gratitude to God throughout the day, so I’ll create a breath prayer that allows me to do that.
The easiest way to choose a breath prayer is to check in with yourself at the soul level, name your need, and then use that to create your breath prayer.
A great starting point is to ask yourself the question, “what am I needing to receive from God today?”
Is it His love?
Name your need and then choose a short phrase or Bible verse that echoes that need, and turn it into a breath prayer.
Later on in this post, I’ll provide you with some breath prayers that I use regularly as a starting point.
But for today, let’s break down how to use breath prayer using the Psalm we discussed above, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (NIV)
You’ll notice that the verse is a bit long and we’ll need to shorten and adapt it in order to sync it to the rhythm of our breath.
So, instead of “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”, let’s shorten it to say, “My hope, is in you, God.”
It’s also important to note that you can use any Name for God that you are comfortable with. I tend to sub in Lord, Abba, or Yahweh depending on what feels most natural to me that day.
Now that we’ve chosen our breath prayer, it’s time to put it into practice.
Breathe In & Breathe Out
One of the things I love most about breath prayer is its simplicity. It’s incredibly easy to put into practice!
So, as a reminder, here’s our breath prayer for today: “My hope, is in you, God.”
To put this into practice, you simply repeat in your mind (or out loud, but typically breath prayers are repeated inwardly) the first half of the phrase as you inhale,
And then repeat in your mind or outwardly the second half of the phrase on your exhale,
“Is in you, God.”
Traditionally, breath prayers are prayed inwardly and synched to the natural rhythm of your breathing.
If you find this difficult to do — good news — there’s really no wrong way to engage with this practice! You can engage in breath prayer using deep breaths to help relieve stress and ground yourself in God’s truth. Or, if you find yourself stuck and stressed trying to get your breathing right, you can simply repeat the prayers in your mind and not focus so much on your breath.
One of the main points of breath prayer is to get you to notice God with you throughout your day as you seek to dive deeper into relationship with Him. So, don’t get so focused on the ‘how’ that you forget the ‘why’!
The Benefits of Breath Prayer
Breath prayer is one Christian spiritual practice that I find myself using almost every day. There are so many benefits, and I want to talk about 4 main benefits with you today.
Pray Without Ceasing
There are many times throughout the Bible that we are encouraged to make communication with God a top priority.
We see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus as He “often withdrew to lonely places to pray” as stated in Luke 5:16. And He continually taught His disciples that they should “always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).
The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 when he gave the command to “pray without ceasing”. And again in Colossians 4:2 when he wrote, “devote yourselves to prayer”.
Prayer is how we communicate and commune with God. When we pray, we are building a strong foundation for our faith rooted in an intimate relationship with our Creator.
One of the many benefits of breath prayer is that it’s a very simple but powerful way to stay in constant communication with God in prayer.
Beholding God in the Everyday Mundane
Another benefit to using breath prayer is that helps us behold God’s presence with us in our everyday mundane lives.
Beholding God means to pay attention to or notice His presence with us. And breath prayer is one way we can do this.
For me, when my day is hurried and packed to the max, I find it helpful to utilize breath prayer as I transition from one task to the next. I use that one single second to refocus my attention on God, reminding myself that He is with me and that I am never outside of His loving presence.
Another way to use breath prayer as a way to behold God’s presence with you in the everyday is by picking a chore or physical task that you do on a daily basis — washing the dishes, cooking dinner, showering, driving to the grocery store, etc. — and using it as a trigger that prompts you to repeat your breath prayer.
Psalm 139:7-10 reminds us that God is always with us, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV)
God loves us and He loves spending time with us. He longs to be a part of our days and I think at times we forget that He really is interested in how we spend our time.
His presence is in the very air we breathe, and breath prayer is a powerful way in which we can have an awareness of His presence with us anywhere and everywhere we go.
There have been so many times throughout the past couple of years that breath prayer has felt like a lifeline.
My husband and I underwent a major change – a good change, but still a big one – almost a year ago when we decided to sell our house in Warsaw and move to Greenwood, Indiana.
For those trying to buy a home at the time this is being written, you may have noticed that the housing market is literally insane! And when my husband and I went to try and buy a home in Greenwood, it took 14 nos before we got our one yes.
In between the 14 nos and the one yes, we ended up selling our home and moving in with my parents for about six weeks. I love my parents to death and am incredibly grateful that they were able to shelter us while we were home-searching. But, as a young married couple, living with your parents isn’t an ideal long-term solution.
To say the whole process was incredibly stressful is an understatement! And remember earlier when I told you that I’m the kind of person who bottles up her emotions? Well, those emotions tend to come out eventually and it’s usually not pretty.
But I’ve learned – and am still learning – how to take a few steps back when I begin to feel overwhelmed, and reach for a breath prayer. Because in reaching for a breath prayer, I’m really training myself to reach for Jesus.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (NIV)
Prayer is the first thing Paul instructs us to do after he tells us not to be anxious. By learning how to reach for a breath prayer in times of worry or stress, we are learning how to surrender our circumstances to God and give up control.
Incorporating breath prayer into our daily lives reminds us of Who God is, and can be incredibly soothing at times when life gets crazy and we tend to forget.
One of my favorite things about breath prayer is its simplicity and versatility.
Anyone, anywhere, at any time can engage in the Christian spiritual practice of breath prayer! All that’s needed is a short phrase or Scripture, your mind, and your breath.
This practice is perfect for the working moms, the stay-at-home moms, the single woman, the newly married woman, the college woman, and the empty-nester woman who is learning how to slow down.
If I forgot to name someone, please know you are included and seen because breath prayer is for any and all.
It can be utilized in the car on the way to work or as you’re dropping the kids off at school. You can engage with it while you’re folding laundry or cooking dinner, or even sitting at your desk at work.
One of the best things about breath prayer, in my opinion, is that it’s a very simple yet powerful way to connect with God no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
For those who are in the middle of an extremely crazy, busy, or weary season of your life and just don’t have an hour to dedicate to devotional time, breath prayer is a lifeline. In a single second, it can shift your focus and attention off of your circumstances, off of your overloaded schedule, and onto God’s presence.
7 Breath Prayers to Get You Started
Now that you hopefully have a better understanding of what breath prayer is, how to use it, and four key benefits of using it, you may be wondering how to get started.
Of course, as I’ve already said a few times, you can pick any short phrase or Scripture you like and turn it into a breath prayer. But, for those like me who need a little inspiration to get you going, I want to share with you seven of my personal favorite breath prayers.
A breath prayer for when you’re not feeling good enough: “Abba, Father // I belong to you.”
A breath prayer for when you’re feeling weary: “Return to your rest, my soul // for the Lord has been good to you.” (Adapted from Psalm 116:7)
A breath prayer of praise and gratitude: “Let everything that has breath // praise the Lord.” (Adapted from Psalm 105:6)
A breath prayer for when you’re feeling anxious: “Be still and know // that I am God.” (Adapted from Psalm 46:10)
A breath prayer for seasons of suffering or hardship: “God is my refuge and strength // an everpresent help in trouble.” (Adapted from Psalm 46:1)
A breath prayer for seasons of growth: “Make me like a tree // planted by the water.” (Adapted from Jeremiah 17:7-8)
A breath prayer for when you need God’s peace: “Your peace, Lord // I receive now.”
On my website, there’s a resource that lives within the Resource Library that contains 25 breath prayer cards that you can print out and hang up all over your home. They’re free, all you have to do is subscribe to my email list and I’ll send you the password to gain access!
If you’re already a subscriber, you can find the password to the Resource Library within your welcome email from me, or you can reach out to me via email at email@example.com and I’ll send you the password again.
Responding & Receiving
In her book, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, Marjorie J. Thompson writes, “…the spiritual life has to do with how God relates to us and how we, in turn, relate to God. Prayer is the essential expression of this relationship… Prayer as conversation with God can be deeply fulfilling… True communication is a two-way street. Genuine dialogue asks us to listen as well as to speak, to receive in order to respond.”
Breath prayer is all about responding to our deepest longing by naming it in God’s presence and then creating room within ourselves to receive what God wants to give in response.
A breath prayer offered up asking for peace immediately puts the presence of God at the forefront of whatever situation you face. In that single moment, God grants His peace because you have hands and a heart open ready to receive it.
God loves you, friend, and His goodness runs after you each and every day. He longs to give you what you need, and what you need most always comes in the form of His presence. From there, blessings flow even amidst the trials and heartache.
God is always revealing Himself to His children, and He longs to commune with you inside of each day. Breath prayer is one way in which you can be receptive to the presence of God with you.
I pray that these words today about breath prayer bless you immensely, and encourage you to always seek the God who is always seeking after you.
If you want to catch up on the series, An Introduction to Christian Spiritual Practices, you can do so here. So far, we’ve talked about the Christian spiritual practice of naming and spiritual direction.