Breathing Prayer

In silence and solitude, we attempt to quiet both external noise and internal noise. But internal noise is by far the hardest to quell. Often, when we come to quiet, our mind just runs wild, as Henri Nouwen once said, "Like monkeys in a banana tree." In this exercise, we focus on our breathing to calm our mind, and let it "descend into the heart" in God.


Put away your phone and any other distractions, settle into your time/place, and get comfortable.


Watch your breathing.

a. Sit in an upright, but relaxed position.

b. Close your eyes.

c. Take slow, deep breaths.

d. Feel the sensations in your body-stress, heart rate, tightness, calmness, pain, lightness, etc. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it's a good gift. By becoming present in our body, we become present the moment, and eventually, in God himself.

e. Just "watch" your breath enter and exit your body. Pay attention to it and nothing else.

f. Your mind will seize this opportunity to run wild with thoughts, feelings, memories, to do's, and distractions. That's okay. It's used to constant chatter, not stillness. Don't judge yourself, feel like a failure, or give up. Just let each thought go as quickly as it comes. When you notice your mind start to wander, just re-center with a quick prayer, like, "Father" or "Jesus" or "Peace" or the ancient, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner," and come back to your breathing.

g. Let the Spirit generate from deep within you a compassionate heart toward yourself and each thought that you gently release.



a. This isn't new age, hypnosis, or magic; it's just a way of resting in God's love, being present to him, slowing down to let Jesus set the pace and agenda of our day.

b. Once you settle into a rhythm, begin to turn each breath into a prayer. One breath at a time, imagine yourself breathing out: Anger, sadness, anxiety, despair, fear, the need to control, discontentment.

c. And then imagine yourself breathing in its opposite: Love, joy, peace, hope, trust, detachment, contentment.



a. Before you end this exercise, spend a little while just "abiding in the vine;" simply sit in loving attention on God.

b. Watch God watching you in compassionate love. This is the core of all transformation into Christlikeness.

c. Through resting under God's loving attention toward us by the Spirit, we are transformed. As St. John of the Cross once said, "What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God... for the language he best hears is silent love."