Today, a Lighthouse Trails caller asked if we could tell her what “breath prayers” are and wondered if we had any information on them because someone in her church is advising others to practice them. Thus, we are posting some information we have previously posted on breath prayers. Breath prayers, like lectio divina, are a “gateway” meditation practice into full-blown New Age meditation.
Ray Yungen speaks on breath prayers:
“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!'” (From A Time of Departing, p. 75)
Breath Prayers and Rick Warren
By Larry DeBruyn
Are “breath prayers” a method by which we can become best friends with God? To direct people on a spiritual journey for 40 days, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life. The best-selling book has impacted millions of people. Some of Warren’s purpose involves his recommendations for “Becoming Best Friends with God.” The author shares six secrets to become God’s friends, 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 prayers, 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, Rick Warren also cites the book of Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, who advocated experiencing the presence of God in the most menial of circumstances, by praying short conversational prayers throughout the day. The Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary is also akin to breath prayers.
Though breath praying is not found in the Bible, advocates of the practice recommend repeating a short phrase, the phrase can be from the Bible, in prayer throughout the day. For example, in the parable of The Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus portrayed a tax collector who in repentance and humility, cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'” Out of this The Desert Fathers, a monastic group in Egypt during 3rd and 4th centuries, created the “Kyrie Eleison” (“Lord have mercy”) prayer which later became known as the “Jesus Prayer.” The prayer became a favorite of these fathers who later expanded it to be, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Click here to read this entire article.
Rick Warren “With practice, you can develop the habit of praying silent ‘breath prayers'”—Rick Warren Also see pages 89 and 299 of PDL
Saddleback Church “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.” Consult Chapter 10 of The Purpose-Driven Life for more information.”
Rick Warren’s Teens at Saddleback “I started slowly to turn my worries into ‘breath prayers.'”
“Be sure to breathe prayers to God about your conversations …” —Nancy Ortberg (John Ortberg’s wife)
“I began practicing meditation, specifically breath prayer, once again. I integrated the use of Tai Chi and yoga.”—John M. Talbot, Catholic monk and musician
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (approx. 1800 Baptist churches)
“I started slowly to turn my worries into ‘breath prayers.'” “helps you practice the presence of God” “Be sure to breathe prayers to God about your conversations …” —Nancy Ortberg (John Ortberg’s wife)
Rob Bell on Breath Prayer, Noomas, Yoga and more… The following Audio clip is a sermon by Rob Bell. In this audio, Bell leads the audience through a meditation exercise and talks about various aspects of contemplative spirituality. Please use caution when listening to this audio file (not suitable for children). Click here for audio file.