Sculpting Project: 12 Breaths
Many years ago in the fall of 1850 a Russian peasant was attending church and the scripture reading for the day was “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess. 5:17. The peasant’s heart was gripped. How was it possible to pray without ceasing? He set out on a pilgrimage to discover the answer. After many failed attempts he found an old monk who said, “Ah, I know a way to pray without ceasing.” He pulled an ancient book off his shelf from the Orthodox Fathers and read to the peasant about the Jesus Prayer.
This prayer’s origin was from the gospel of Mark and the cries of Blind Bartimatus as Jesus passed by.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
The peasant took this prayer to heart, got a summer job tending a local garden and practiced the Jesus Prayer all summer until he worked up to 12,000 repetitions a day. The prayer filled his mind, his heart and his dreams.
I began to practice the Jesus Prayer when I was in my 20’s and when it came time to deliver my daughter Terese I used the prayer in combination with my Lamaze breathing for a successful birth.
Using breath with prayer is not new. It is a method of prayer that Christians have used throughout history.
In Gen. 2:7 God breathed the breath of life into Adam. And this a gift of breath has amazing power for our well-being.
Breath is something we do without thinking: an involuntary function of our body. And I have largely taken it for granted and been ignorant of the way of the way breath affects my health, thinking and emotions.
Intentional breathing is when we take an active role in the way we breath. There are many ways to do intentional breathing and there is a large body of research on how intentional breathing affects us.
Intentional breathing practices do the following.
- Control blood pressure
- Lowers heart rate
- Quickly turn off our Sympathetic (action) system and turn on our Parasympathetic (at ease) system
- Reduces negative effects of stress
- Lower anxiety
- Sleep better
- Reduce heart burn
- Control panic attacks
- Improve athletic and mental performance
- Manage pain
- Reduce depression
- Choose emotions
- Change brain waves especially to alpha and theta states.
- Boost energy
- And More…
A center at Stanford has developed a program where intentional breathing methods have helped our military recover from post traumatic stress.
God has built a pharmacy into our body and intentional breath methods are one of its major tools.
Our sculpting Project this week uses the ancient prayer method of praying with our breath.
1. Our first step is to select a short prayer.
The Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” is one possible choice.
Other examples: “Thank you lord for the gift of _____(fill in the blank.)”
“Lord Jesus Christ, fill me with your Love (peace, joy,. . .)”
A passage from scripture. “Be still and know I am God.”
2. After we have selected a short prayer then combine our prayer with breath.
Inhale: “ Lord Jesus Christ” Exhale “Fill me with your love”. Or
Inhale “Thank-you Lord” Exhale: “for the gift of hope”.
- This project of using intentional breath with prayer will deepen our connection with God as we bring ourselves, mind and body, to God.
- The project will help us (and therefore others) to thrive because intentional breathing taps into the pharmacy that God has built into us. This pharmacy will bring us into better health of mind and body.
Soul Sculpting Project: 12 Breaths
1. Select a short prayer. Ex. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”
2. Combine this the prayer with your breath.
- Inhale ‘Lord Jesus Christ”.
- Exhale “ have mercy on me.”
3. The peasant prayed 12,000 times a day. I suggest we begin by removing the 0’s and pray our breath prayer 12 times a day.
Further reading on the Jesus Prayer: The Way of a Pilgrim.
May our skills in intentional breathing and love of God grow this week.