Prayers can be lengthy, carefully-crafted forms of art and poetry, like those we’ve explored so far in this series. Then again, prayers can also be concise and succinct. Introducing…..the “Breath Prayer.” The breath prayer is an ancient form of prayer practiced by Christians since at least the 6th century. In breath prayers, a short and simple phrase is simply repeated; either in repetition or at various times throughout the day.
Traditionally, a breath prayer may consist of a simple salutation (calling on a divine name): God, Lord, Christ, Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc.; followed by a brief expression of praise or request. For example: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me” or “God, I thank and praise you” or “Holy Lord, be with me now” or “Lord, forgive me and give me peace.” Breathe in as you call upon the name of God, and breathe out as you give God your praise or request. Thus, it is a prayer you can offer in one breath. Personally, I offer breath prayers many times during the day. For me, they’re like constant check-ins with Christ; letting him know how I am, what I’m feeling, thinking, and experiencing.
Though it certainly wouldn’t be considered a classic breath prayer, one I’ve really liked for the past few years comes from writer Anne Lamott. In her 2012 book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, Anne lays out for us a pretty great breath prayer right in the title. When we pray “help,” we’re surrendering to God and admitting our sinfulness and inability to make the world right on our own. In praying “thanks,” we recall the overwhelming blessings of life – even in times of difficulty. “Wow” is our praise of God; when we look at the sunset and expanse of the night sky, when we sit down to supper and are surrounded by people we love, when we remember Christ’s sacrificial love for us all. Anne’s prayer may not fit the traditional mold of a breath prayer, but it’s a good one to try. Let us pray:
Help, Thanks, Wow.