Staying Afloat with Prayer

I am a beach person. The mixture of sun, sand, and the seashore lifts my spirit and renews my body. It is a balm I reach for every summer, a place I go to replenish myself for the year ahead.

Prayer does a similar thing for my soul. It connects me to my Creator, renewing and restoring my soul as I walk with God along the paths of my heart. Prayer also has a tendency to come more naturally while I’m at the beach. Perhaps it’s the combination of natural beauty and personal rest that attunes my heart to the presence of God around me. Every time I walk down the beach I can’t help but thank God for the salty air and consistent waves, and for the chance to savor all of it.

Since we are currently in the middle of beach season, I thought it appropriate to share three of the prayers that keep me afloat, whether at the beach, at our church, or while I am out and about each day. I pray they may be a balm to you, just as they are to me:

Breath prayer:
A breath prayer can be said in a single breath. First, choose a piece of scripture, or a short prayer of your own. Second, as you breathe in, say the first half of the scripture or prayer. Third, as you breathe out, say the second half of the scripture or prayer. One of the most common breath prayers is called the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.” While I am walking along the beach I often pray using words from Psalm 8, I breathe in and say, “O Lord,” I breathe out and say, “how majestic is your name.”

Nature prayer:
A nature prayer allows the person praying to enjoy nature while giving thanks for it. I practice it most often while on a walk, whether along the beach or down the street. I keep my eyes attuned to the nature around me. When I see something that makes me marvel – perhaps a neighbor’s flowering plant or a line of pelicans hovering over the waves – I offer a short prayer of gratitude to God. Another way to practice nature prayer is to consider nature as an image of God. Where in nature do you see God’s image? For me, one example is the ocean. When I look out and truly soak in the vastness of the ocean I’m reminded of God’s all-encompassing presence around me, a presence that is deeper and wider than I can imagine and into which I am invited to float and rest. 

Daily Examen prayer:
The Daily Examen is a contemplative prayer done by memory at the end of the day. It is a prayer in which you process the day that has been, acknowledging the moments you felt most alive, and the moments you felt most drained. It is a wonderful way to notice God’s presence with you during the day, and recognize those places of deep blessing and need. The Daily Examen originated with St. Ignatius of Loyola. You can read more about it on the website of the religious order he founded, the Jesuits.

These are just three of many ways you can pray. If you’re heading to the beach or mountains, or simply planning a staycation, and are looking for a book to read about prayer, here are a few to consider: Learning to Pray by James Martin, S.J., Breath Prayer: An Ancient Practice for the Everyday Sacred by Christine Valters Paintner, and Prayer: Forty Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson.