I continue to work my way through Sacred Rhythms and today continue the chapter on prayer. She recommends a "breath prayer" that is foundational to our spiritual life. I first learned about "breath prayers" when 25 years ago I read Into the Light: A Simploe Way to Pray with the Sick and the Dying by Ron DelBene . He believes that not only does a breath prayer help us in our own walk with God, but when someone is dying we can pray their breath prayer as we accompany them in their last days.
A breath prayer is a simple concrete way to open ourselves to God's spirit. It is truly a prayer that comes from the deepest well of our being. Over the years I have had different breath prayers that I pray throughout the day: in the car, walking, on the toilet. It is words that come through me and have helped me to stay connected to God.
There are two parts to discerning your breath prayer. The first is to sit with the question: what do I want? What is my heart's desire? It is a question that is not always answered quickly but through time of reflection.
The second is to deciding on the name or image of who God is to you. So it may we Jesus, shepherd, divine one, God, Lord, Father, etc. etc.
And then we put the two together and find what flows, what comes within a breath, what we can remember (?). Like Ruth Haley Barton, one of my breath prayers over the years has been the "Jesus Prayer" - "Lord Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Or some version like
"Lord, have mercy." It often is all I need to say to feel reconnected and open.
This morning as I sat with that profound question: what do I want? I found myself realizing that the word "guidance" kept coming. I need to be guided in the paths of life. I like that phrase - the paths of life - and not death. I have spent the past few days organizing journals and pictures from the past and I know that there have been times when I did not follow paths of "life." And somehow that God - like a shepherd - corralled me back or went and rescued me. I live always in awareness of grace.
And so, I do picture that I need help in guidance. And so my breath prayer for today and for some months ahead is "Guide me O Lord in your path of life." It feels like it fits for now and I am going to stick to it.
I read the day's scriptures and was struck by verses in each of them:
Jeremiah 33 Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Psalm 118 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Philippians 2 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
I love all of these verses because they strengthen my faith and encourage me in times like this of looking for guidance. God is at work within me - and within all who call to him. God is steadfast!
And so I begin with this prayer - and will pray it throughout the day and hope that I am paying attention.
Guide me O Lord in your path of LIFE.