What is prayer?

For some, it may seem like this practice is reserved for pastors or your auntie or tia or tita  who never fails to bless every meal you share together.


Or maybe it looks like something you learned in Sunday School or at a campus ministry — how to journal and read the Bible together. Perhaps the only time you feel like you pray (especially out loud) is at small group or church, and even then some of you may squirm and avoid eye contact with your leaders until they inevitably volunteer you to pray for the group.


“Prayer” according to etymonline.com, a website about etymology (the origin of words and their changes over time), came to us via French from the Latin root word meaning, “to ask, request, entreat.” 


And here we encounter the limits of English! This is what most people deem “prayer” to be, and it shows. Much of the focus of prayer falls on the speaking, entreating, even begging to God. It’s us speaking TO God. And this is very important! It is a profound beauty that God is a God who hears and lovingly receives our cries.


But how many of you know that prayer is also, listening, sitting, being with God? 


Over the next few months, we want to share some helpful articles inviting you into a more contemplative time of prayer with God. 


We hope this blesses you and encourages you on your journey with the Lord.



Breath Prayer


Imagine yourself on a typical day.


You probably wake up to some obnoxious noise, like a buzzing phone alarm or perhaps the tugging of your little ones. Maybe you pry your protesting kids from their nice warm beds in order to get them to school or daycare or grandma’s in time for you to get to work. And maybe you have your earbuds in as you walk in to work in an attempt to prepare yourself for the day. And work comes with its own demands — customers, bosses, coworkers, or frantic emails vie for your attention. 


We’re only half-way through the day, and it’s gotten undeniably noisy and full; maybe even overwhelming. 


Maybe you used to be able to spend time with God through journaling or prayer, but you often feel like you don’t even have time to think.. much less sit down and engage with God these days.


Maybe all you feel like you can do is breathe


Breath Prayers have been a part of meditative spiritual practice for ages with roots in church tradition and is now seen analogously in counseling practices to combat anxiety. 


Often, breath prayers connect short phrases from Scripture or your own heart by breathing in the first part of the phrase and breathing out the second part. We’re usually so busy that slowing down is difficult, but taking long breaths in, holding it, and releasing these breaths naturally help us wind down. 


The words “breath” and “spirit” are the same in the Hebrew text (ruwach, רוּחַ) as well as in the Greek New Testament (pneuma, πνεῦμα). Think of this prayer as embodying the presence of the Holy Spirit and allowing yourself to worshipfully breathe instead of, say, singing or dancing or other practices more typical in a Western service.


A simple breath prayer could look like this:


  • Close your eyes and invite God’s presence into this moment 
  • Acknowledge any distractions that my be vying for your attention and give them to God for these few minutes (“Lord, I admit this is distracting me, but I give you my thoughts and needs right now. Spirit, enable me to connect with you in this moment.”)
  • Breathe in for four seconds and pray in the first part of the verse or phrase (“Loving Father“)
  • Hold for four seconds
  • Breath out for four seconds and pray the last part of the verse or phrase (“I need you today“)
  • Repeat this prayer for five minutes, paying attention to your breath and body that God has blessed you with. The goal is not to rush or get to the end, but to be present with God in this moment.
  • As you pray, be aware of God’s presence with you. Relish in that. Maybe even pause your words, and simply breath, listening to what God could be saying to you. He may use a feeling or a word or a picture. But if not, it’s OK to just be still and present.
  • End by thanking God for this time and asking for His presence to go with you as you re-engage with your day

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
The Psalmists recognized the vitality of stillness in knowing God. By connecting prayer with your physical rhythms of breathing, you enable the Lord to connect with your body, where we often store stress. It’s amazing to see how God created our bodies and how something this simple can help us connect with Him!


You may not have an hour to journal, but this is something that you could practice for five minutes during your lunch break, while commuting on a train, or when stuck in traffic. 


As you practice this, try extending your time to 10 or 15 minutes.  This could be a beautiful way of resting in the Lord instead of going to YouTube or Facebook or Netflix for that peace that we all need.


Be blessed!


Thank you always for your support and prayers for the Chicago Navigators.