A summer 2018 Relevant Magazine article titled “Why Learning to Breathe May Be the Best Way to Pray,” tells readers that,
Breath prayer [are] 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) . . . Breath prayer offers stressed-out Christians a simple way to respond to stress by turning our attention to the presence of God and reaching out to Him for grace.
Relevant Magazine* is listed on the Lighthouse Trails “50 Top Contemplative-Promoting Organizations” and has a long history of promoting contemplative prayer. Relevant claims that,
[s]ince 2002, RELEVANT has been the leading platform reaching Christian twenty- and thirtysomethings.” In other words, their target is the millennials. . . . We reach about 2,300,000 twenty- and thirtysomething Christians a month.
If numbers like that are accurate, that means there’s a large chance your grown children or grandchildren are reading material from Relevant, and now, through this article, have been introduced to breath prayers, mindfulness, and contemplative prayer. The article continues:
Breath prayer provides Christians a simple, sustainable way to gain the benefits of mindfulness while deepening our relationship with God. The practice of breath prayer considerably overlaps with the practice of mindfulness . . . The impact of this kind of prayer can be profound. Studies have found that contemplative prayer, of which breath prayer is one form, can help Christians manage stress, evaluate stressors differently and increase spiritual awareness. Furthermore, practicing contemplative prayer can decrease symptoms of worry, depression, anxiety and stress. Additionally, it can be an effective tool for coping with conflict, enhancing users’ mindfulness skills and offering them a greater connection and awareness of their subconscious.
As for breath prayers, this article certainly isn’t the first time major players in today’s “New” Christianity have recommended them. One of the most, if not THE most, popular and influential pastors was pushing breath prayers years ago. On pages 89 and 229 of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states, “With practice, you can develop the habit of praying silent ‘breath prayers'” In an article on Warren’s pastors.com website, it exhorts: “Breath prayers are a great way to keep in contact with our Heavenly Father throughout our day. Just repeat short heart-felt prayers, such as “You are my God,” “I love you Lord,” and “Thank You, Jesus.” And also, in 2004, on the Purpose Driven website, it stated: “I started slowly to turn my worries into ‘breath prayers.'”
Author and researcher, Ray Yungen, writes about breath prayers in A Time of Departing:
When [Richard] Foster speaks of the silence, he does not mean external silence. In his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster recommends the practice of breath prayer—picking a single word or short phrase and repeating it in conjunction with the breath. This is classic contemplative mysticism.
In the original 1978 edition of Celebration of Discipline, he makes his objective clear when he states, “Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it.” In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, he ties in a quote by one mystic who advised, “You must bind the mind with one thought.” The advice recounts Anthony de Mello’s remarks in his contemplative prayer classic, Sadhana: A Way to God. His approach was virtually identical to Foster’s:
“To silence the mind is an extremely difficult task. How hard it is to keep the mind from thinking, thinking, thinking, forever thinking, forever producing thoughts in a never ending stream. Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: one thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts that crowd into your mind. One thought, one image, one phrase or sentence or word that your mind can be made to fasten on.”
“I once related Foster’s breath prayer method to a former New Age devotee who is now a Christian. She affirmed this connection when she remarked with astonishment, ‘That’s what I did when I was into ashtanga yoga!” (ATOD, p.75)
In an article by the late Pastor Larry DeBruyn titled “Are “breath prayers” a method by which we can become best friends with God?,” DeBruyn states:
To direct people on a spiritual journey for 40 days, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life. The bestselling book has impacted millions of persons. Some of Pastor Warren’s purpose involves recommendations for “Becoming Best Friends with God.” To become God’s friends, the author shares six secrets, one of which is practicing God’s presence by being in “constant conversation” with him. After quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“pray without ceasing”), Warren asks how a Christian can practice unceasing prayer to which he answers, “One way is to use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated in one breath.” Then after providing ten examples of short biblical phrases that could work as breath prayers, Warren advises “Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart.” In this context Warren also cites the book of Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, who advocated experiencing God’s presence in the most menial of circumstances by praying short conversational prayers throughout the day. The Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary is akin to breath prayers. . . .
As the record shows, Jesus never practiced or taught breath praying. . . . Though in Scripture Jesus has commanded us to do many things that pertain to holiness and godliness, he never commanded us to pray breath prayers. In fact, his teaching on prayer implies just the opposite, that we should not pray repeated and recitative prayers like the heathen. The Lord called Abraham “My friend” (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23), but there is no record that first, he prayed constantly, or second, used breath prayers. Yet because Abraham obeyed [and trusted] God he was a friend of God. In the same way we become God’s friends through obedience. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way.
The Relevant Magazine article promises the reader, if he or she will practice breath prayer and other contemplative prayer practices, an “inner stillness” (i.e., putting the mind in neutral – stopping all thought), relief from stress, “interior watchfulness,” “inner peace,” “purity of thought,” “a feeling of delight through one’s being,” “lightness and courage,” and “joy of life”—basically the same things that are promised if one practices Eastern-style mantra meditation. In fact, an article like this would fit very nicely in any New Age type publication because the focus is on meditation practices not on the biblical Jesus Christ who never once recommended to His followers that they practice breath prayers or other meditation techniques to get close to God.
The breath-prayer article on Relevant Magazine is just another mile marker on the church’s fast-moving highway to deception. Knowing that over two million millennials may read this article on breath prayers, mindfulness, and contemplative prayer is an overwhelming thought. Let’s make sure we do what we can to warn any in this age group of the dangers of these practices and encourage them to put their trust in Jesus Christ and His Word. If Ray Yungen is right, that contemplative prayer is the vehicle which will bring about a time of departing from the faith, then our young people are in serious trouble, and their parents and grandparents have a responsibility to speak up.
*According to Wikipedia, Relevant Magazine is owned by Relevant Media Group, which was started by Cameron Strang, son of Charisma Magazine publisher and Strang Communications CEO Stephen Strang in June, 2001.
Dangerous Prayers by Paul Proctor