The Breath Prayer we know today originated with the Desert Mothers and Fathers as a way to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Historically, it is associated with the Eastern Church, particularly Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.
Known more commonly as the “Jesus Prayer” early practitioners would repeat to the rhythm of their breath the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” In time, the prayer was shortened to, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy” or simply, “Jesus, mercy.”
Breath prayer has the potential to become as natural as breathing and it is intended to be a very short prayer with just six to eight syllables. The inhalation of breath is a movement that expresses an attitude of invocation or supplication and the exhalation is a movement that expresses an attitude of receiving or acceptance. The words of the prayer can be easily adjusted to whatever longing is in your heart.
Invocation is made by calling on one of the Divine names such as God, Jesus, Lord, Father/Mother, Christ, or Spirit or whatever name of adoration you prefer. Then put words to your request or intention.The breath prayer is usually said silently within, repeating the prayer over and over keeping your attention on your breath and the prayer. If your attention wanders, gently return to the prayer.
1. Close your eyes and recall the line “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still, calm, peaceful, open to the presence of God. Take a deep breath and release it slowly. Repeat this a few times. Let go of the thoughts and be present to the practice.Take as long as you need until you feel the thoughts settle.
2. With your eyes closed, imagine that like the blind man on the road to Jericho, Jesus kindly looks you in the eyes and asks, “What do you want from me?” Take time to sit here and and see what comes up inside of you. If you have more than one answer, write it down.
3. Select the name that you are most comfortable using to speak with God and combine it with your written answer to the question God asked you. This is your prayer.
4. Breathe in your invocation of God’s name and breathe out the second phrase/word to express your request or need.
5. Repeat the prayer as you breathe in and out for five minutes or longer.
6. Rest in God’s presence.