Retirement has allowed me to take advantage of professional learning opportunities I did not have time for when working full-time. In early February of this year I attended the 2024 Polyphony Annual Conference. Polyphony is an organization that aims to nurture church musicians in their ministry and in their well-being so they thrive wherever God calls them (https://www.polyphonyresources.org/).

At this conference were the usual sessions on church-music topics, e.g., innovative worship practices, current church music resources, best choral practices for volunteer singers. Some of the more interesting sessions were our times of worship together led by Julie Merritt Lee (https://www.mysticmama.us/).

Pastor Merritt Lee’s lectures and worship sessions focused on Embodied Spirituality (for a brief overview of some of the practices of Embodies Spirituality, see https://hds.harvard.edu/news/2020/04/02/embodied-spiritual-practices-are-way-stay-calm). One of the Embodied Spiritual practices taught to us by Pastor Merritt Lee that is most meaningful to me is the practice of breath prayer. The following is from a conference handout on this practice. I encourage you to try breath prayer for yourself and see if you find it meaningful in your spiritual journey.

 

Breath Prayer

How To: (from The Breath of Life: A Workbook, author Ron DelBene, publisher The Upper Room, 1996)

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and remind yourself that God loves you and that you are in God’s loving presence. Recall a passage of scripture that puts you in a prayerful frame of mind. Consider, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1) or, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
  2. With your eyes still closed, imagine that God is calling you by name. Hear God asking you, “(Your name), what do you want?”
  3. Answer God with whatever comes directly from your heart. Your answer might be a single word, such as peace or love or forgiveness. Your answer could instead be a phrase or brief sentence, such as, “I want to feel your forgiveness,” or “I want to know your love.” Because the prayer is personal, it naturally rises out of your present concerns. Your response to God’s question, “What do you want?” becomes the heart of your prayer.
  4. Choose your favorite name or image for God. Choices commonly made include God, Jesus, Creator, Teacher, Light, Lord, Spirit, Shepherd, Friend.
  5. Combine your name for God with your answer to God’s question, “What do you want?” You then have your breath prayer. Aim for a prayer of six to eight syllables that has a natural rhythm and fits with your breath–inhaling and exhaling.

 

Examples of Breath Prayers:

What I Want – peace

Name I Call God – God

Possible Prayer – Let me know your peace, O God.

What I Want – love

Name I Call God – Jesus

Possible Prayer – Jesus, let me feel your love.

What I Want – Guidance

Name I Call God – Eternal Light

Possible Prayer – Eternal Light, guide me in your way.

Let me know if you try this embodied spiritual practice and what you think of it.

Keep Breathing,

Carey