Throughout Lent, please enjoy this Lenten Prayer Journey.
As we journey through Lent and explore prayer practices to enhance our spiritual journey, this week we would like to offer breath prayers. This ancient practice is a simple, yet beautiful prayer that allows us to connect with ourselves, with God, and to be present to each moment. You breathe without thinking, and when you breathe slowly, you slow yourself down and center yourself away from the distractions and worry of the day; breath prayers can have tremendous benefits spiritually, physically and mentally.
How do you begin? Choose a familiar phrase, Bible verse, or prayer. Different words or verses can be used, depending on what you are praying for and what feels right to you. Pray half of the words as you intake your breath, and the second half as you exhale. Some people like to be very still, in a quiet spot while quieting their mind. Others like to center themselves throughout the rhythms of life: when walking, sitting at a traffic light, first thing in the morning, or as you fall asleep.
Here are a few prayers we have found helpful to begin with:
(Inhale) Be still and know – (exhale) that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
The Lord is my shepherd – I shall not want. (Psalm 23)
Love – Peace
Jesus Christ – have mercy (shortened from the “Jesus Prayer”)
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God – have mercy on me, a sinner (the “Jesus Prayer”)
When first praying using your breath, it is helpful to remember that this is a non-judgmental prayer. You do not need to do things perfectly. We continue to breathe in and out. Even if you do not have the optimal space or time to offer a longer meditative breath prayer, you still have the opportunity to slow down, breathe deeply and feel God’s presence. Some days, just a few deep breaths with God can allow you to face the next task, and know that God is with you.
The beginning of Lent can be a time to stop and try doing this prayer more intentionally. The longer we are able to sustain our attention while practicing breath prayer, the more we can respond to being called into a quiet conversation with God. We shift from reciting words primarily to calm the physical body, to a quietness inside where we can begin to listen to God. We won’t always get there. Sometimes we can only quiet the mind. But that is a huge blessing in and of itself. If you find that you want to add this prayer practice to your toolbox but are worried you may have trouble maintaining it, try incorporating things you love from your surroundings that promote calm, make you feel safe, and allow you to be present. You may want to integrate calming music, a candle, or an image that brings about relaxation and calm. We pray that breath prayer will be a blessing on you and your journey through Lent.
Beginning on the Labyrinth
By Anne Montgomery Schmid
February 18, 2021
This article is the first in a series of posts throughout Lent about prayer practices. Each week a new prayer practice will be introduced to help guide you through the Lenten season.
It’s time. Here we go, again. It’s time to embark on our journey through Lent, our pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I’ll be honest with you. This is not my favorite season nor my favorite journey. Lent seems to be a great challenge for me. I’ve given up body parts and let go of loved ones during Lent. Why can’t I just give up chocolate? But doing just that wouldn’t take me to the cross, lead me to the risen Christ. So, it’s time. I do know that I am not alone on this journey. That helps. Many people journey with me. And God does, of course. I invite you to journey, too.
When I travel, I bring along my GPS (Guidance Powered by Spirit). This navigation system includes scripture verses, poems and prayers. Consulting these as I prepare and progress on my pilgrimage really helps as I walk along the path. I also bring my toolbox. Some of my tools include breath prayers, sacred pausing, the Prayers of Examen and Praying in Color. I’m happy these resources will be shared with you. As we progress in our journey, these guides will be posted on the Virtual Caring Corner page of the church website. On the labyrinth webpage you will find access to a wonderful Lenten Labyrinth Journey devotional booklet as well as finger labyrinths.
The labyrinth found me during Lent in 2012. Walking a labyrinth has helped me to journey to Jerusalem in a meaningful way. I’ve left a lot of tears in the labyrinth. I’ve also found peace in the labyrinth. The great part about walking a labyrinth is that it meets me where I am. I don’t have to know anything as I take my first step. All I need to do is walk and breathe. As I place one foot and then the next, I focus on my breath and I focus on being with God. God listens to me, and I try to listen for and to God. It’s so good for me to allow my body to carry me as I give my mind a rest.
This Lent looks different, as you know. I won’t be able to walk the large canvas Chartres labyrinth in the gym or Congregational Hall. But I can still walk a labyrinth. In my neighborhood, I wind in and out of side streets and eventually stop in a beautiful little park. That’s my center of the labyrinth. I sit on a bench for as long as I need and listen and breathe. I watch the birds in the trees, and I watch the clouds float by. God has created wonderful and marvelous images! Then when I’m ready, I leave my bench, my center of the labyrinth, and wind my way back home. When the weather is not cooperative, I use a finger labyrinth and “walk” with a finger. I find my body swaying as I do this. It reminds me of that peaceful feeling when holding a baby. I am God’s child, so this feeling makes sense to me.
So, it’s time. Let’s go. I plan to travel light. I’ll be travelling with the Light. I think I’ll pack some chocolate. Just in case.