Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray...As We Breathe

Our texts for this second Sunday in our series on the Lord's Prayer will focus on the prayer's petition, "Hallowed be thy name."  We will be reading Exodus 3:1-15 and Matthew 6:9-13, which you may wish to reflect on ahead of time here.

As I wrote in our first blog in this series last week, during this series I will be using this blog space to help introduce different ways for you to pray and enter into this prayer in your reflection and times of prayer during the week.  This week, we will focus on praying at least the beginning of this prayer with each breath we breathe--literally.  What I would like to encourage you to do is to develop a breath prayer--an ancient prayer practice that encourages you to be in relationship with God with each intake and exhalation of air to and from your lungs.

If you can, take 5-10 minutes to consider developing a breath prayer for the coming days that invites reflection on the name of God and what it means to create space for it to be honored as holy.

1.  Choose a favorite name for God--how do you typically address God?  Maybe it's Father, Jesus, Spirit, Lord, Abba, Holy One; there are a number of names in the graphic above as well.  I find myself addressing my prayers most often to "Gracious God," so this is probably what I will choose.  Write the name you choose down on a slip of paper.

2.  Choose a translation of this week's petition, "hallowed be thy name".  You may wish to stick with this traditional rendering from the King James Version; or, you may wish to try "reveal who you are" (from The Message), "uphold the holiness of your name" (from the Common English Bible), or "may your name be kept holy" (from the New Living Translation).  Write this next to your name for God; mine reads, "Gracious God, reveal who you are."

3.  Now it's time to "pray without ceasing," as good old Paul put it!  I love these recommendations on how to pray a breath prayer borrowed from The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship:

After you have chosen or created a breath prayer, make a goal to remain in God's abiding presence as you begin saying your prayer.  Ponder the meaning and beauty of the words you are saying.  Slowly say the first part of the prayer as you breathe in.  Then slowly say the last part of the prayer as you exhale.  There is no hurry or rush.  
GREAT RECOMMENDATION:  Say your breath prayer throughout the day whenever you remember.  This form of prayer can also serve as a "tape" that can replace negative "tapes" or "commentaries" that often swirl around in our minds.  Whenever you observe that you are negatively reacting to a person, event, or thing, say your breath prayer.  For example, you are stopped at a red light.  The light changes to green.  You slowly begin to move into the intersection when you notice a car that did not stop at his red light.  Instead, he plunges through the intersection as if you were not there.  instead of screaming in your car at the driver who nearly caused a wreck, say your breath prayer.  

I would recommend setting aside a quiet time of 5-10 minutes at least to try the breath prayer initially, then to follow the second set of recommendations for how to invoke this prayer throughout the day.  Maybe you could put the card on which you have written the prayer on your car visor, or your computer at work!  See how much you can keep this prayer in front of you and how it shapes and forms you. May a sense of God's holy presence be with you and surround you as you pray!


Jeremy said...

Thank you for sharing this technique in your typical thoughtful manner, Abby. I was completely unaware of this type of prayer, and I can see how it could help people focus on God. I'll be giving it a go.

Diane Foutz said...

I use to think it was cheating to have a formalized prayer instead of just communicating with God with my petitions and thanks. But over the years when I couldn't express with my own words I could remember scripture. I have also used part of St. Patrick's prayer to remind me of all the scriptures about Christ's protection and presence which has calmed me in times of turmoil. "Christ with me, Christ within me." Emmanuel, God with us. Powerful promises. The Lord's Prayer leads us though our relationship with our Heavenly Father and his son. Breathing helps us calm our hearts to listen to his response.