New Article: Breath Prayer: An Ancient Spiritual Practice Connected with Science

That’s an interesting question. I looked this up in Up to Date, and there were studies on it for asthma with yoga classes; but the anxiety branch included this:

"Breathing retraining — Breathing retraining is a commonly used somatic coping skill [41]. It is supported by evidence of respiratory abnormalities in panic disorder/agoraphobia possibly due to hypersensitive medullary CO2 detectors, resulting in hypocapnia (ie, lower than normal levels of PCO2) [42].

Traditional breathing retraining involves slow, abdominal breathing exercises. However, its value has been questioned in terms of the degree to which it actually corrects hypocapnic breathing [43].

Capnometry-assisted respiratory training (CART) [44,45], in contrast to traditional breathing retraining, uses immediate feedback of end-tidal PCO2 to teach patients how to raise their subnormal levels of PCO2 (hyperventilation) and thereby gain control over dysfunctional respiratory patterns and associated panic symptoms (eg, shortness of breath, dizziness). CART has been shown to improve panic disorder/agoraphobia symptoms [45] in part through reducing hypocapnic breathing [46], although another study showed equivalent effects using immediate feedback of end-tidal PCO2 to either reduce or to increase CO2 levels [47]."

No. It’s not a mystical prayer. As a regular practice, breath prayer just promotes mindfulness of God’s presence, his forgiveness, his goodness, etc., depending on the words that one chooses to pray. In times of stress (or for those who have stress-related disorders), breath prayer also can have calming effects, as Randy detailed above.

Edit: It’s probably more similar to “praying the Scriptures” than to contemplative prayer, if those categories are helpful distinctions.

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Perhaps is a method to put into practice “Be still, and know that I am God”

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Very good analogy. If prayer is a conversation, what does the other end of it look like? Do we enjoy conversation with someone who talks but never listens?

Edit: Why do I always post and immediately have something else to say? Why do I ask so many questions without answers? haha. In any case, it seemed a good time to give a shout out to the author, @Nancy_Wiens, for her thoughts on the direction of the conversation.

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James, that’s a great question, since breathing can induce different awareness levels, depending on the pace and the ratio of inhale and exhale. However, that is not the intent of Breath Prayer. As I understand the ancient tradition, it is a contemplative prayer in that it hones our attention on God and awaits God’s response to us; it is a receptive form of prayer. That is, it is not aimed at asking God for something (petitionary) or proclaiming something about God (praise). While it is not the aim, Breath Prayer may become mystical, as any prayer form may become, in that God can Self-reveal/communicate so that a person has a living encounter with God. As Christy noted, Breath Prayer focuses on the inherently interconnected physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of a human being, bringing them to bear on the desire for intimacy with God. The words chosen further focus our longing for experiencing God.
I’m curious what experiences of contemplative prayer people may have had and how they may or may not relate to these interconnections.

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My father would often fast (of course, following Jesus’ guideline not to tell anyone, I didn’t know about this till later). He said it helped him focus with prayer and memorization. I haven’t done that nearly as much as he, I think, but I should!

I just found this quote by Dallas Willard–“Prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together.” In a way, that sounds like a variation of breath prayer, to me.

Randy, I am deeply intrigued by fasting and how it opens me to deeper acceptance and recognition of my dependence upon God. Thank you for bringing that form of contemplative practice/prayer into our conversation. Also, I love this quote from Dallas! Playful and inviting us into relationship.

I like to think of prayer as my part in a relationship with God, as my intention for being in relationship. God’s grace bids it and then actualizes it, yielding fruit in my life and the world. A shorthand I often use about this call and response is partnering with God in God’s dream for the world. As I see it, each form of prayer has different intentions and fruits. The intention in Breath Prayer is to steadfastness and faithfulness, tied to the ongoing nature of breath. It is bid by God’s steadfast love and justice, beckoning me into prayer without ceasing. It yields a wholeness that mirrors the Shema in Dt. 6: 1-4, loving God with all of aspects of me, even as God is One.

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Phil, I am so grateful for this invitation from you to pray with Psalm 46. It is exactly what I need in my life right now. Thank you so much!
Inhale on “Be still,” and exhale on “and know that I am God.” I particularly like the shorter inhale than exhale, since it adds to the physiological impact of returning to calm and restoration.
Bless you!

Thanks for the explanations! Much better than my shabby guesses.

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