Breathing in Prayer
By Heidi Baumgartner, Washington Conference communication director
Learning to breathe again is important after a personal crisis, family tragedy, community catastrophe, or societal losses.
I remember after a personal trauma six years ago how all my senses tunneled down. My vision field, for example, was limited to a mere 12 inches. A nurse friend on duty at the emergency room came and stuck her head into my limited vision where my eyes focused in recognition. It was such a human moment of connection amid my trauma.
The process of breathing hurt, too. I’d take a breath in and feel the tears and heart sobs come out.
Time was a good healer.
Christian music was a good healer.
The Psalms turned out to be a good healer.
Both uplifting music and Psalms often formed my prayers when I wasn’t sure what to pray.
I recently was gifted a book on prayer where the author encourages the reader to “breathe in” and “breathe out” scripture, to fill your mind with the promises of God.
The author had first applied “breath prayers,” as she calls them, when her young daughter had a medical emergency. All her mind could process as she walked the hospital halls were phrases from Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I have all I need.”
Many times throughout my day I catch myself breathing shallowly and needing to refresh with a deeper breath. When I need extra encouragement, my three go-to Bible chapters are Psalm 139, Psalm 23, and 1 Corinthians 13. I find such comfort in these words:
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
I asked ChatGPT about why prayer is valuable to the Christian experience, and received these five reasons:
- Communication with God: Christians believe that prayer is a means of communicating with God and seeking His guidance, wisdom, and support.
- Expressing Gratitude and Thanksgiving: Prayer provides an opportunity to express gratitude and thankfulness for blessings received.
- Building a Relationship with God: Through prayer, Christians can deepen their relationship with God, grow in their faith, and develop a more intimate understanding of His character and nature.
- Confession and Repentance: Prayer allows for confession of sin and the opportunity for forgiveness and spiritual renewal.
- Personal Transformation: Prayer is believed to have the power to transform the hearts and lives of individuals, bringing peace, joy, and hope to those who pray.
Pastors Ron Schultz, Natalie Darisme, and Vidal Mendoza led our pastoral team through a prayer exercise at Pastors’ Meetings in January.
They modeled how to take a selected passage of scripture and pray:
- Upward in praise to Jesus
- Inward in confession and reflection
- Outward in petition to Jesus for others
There’s something special about being in conversation with Jesus, about intentionally investing time with our Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.
He wants to hear our hearts, our worries, our fears, our tears, our challenges. He wants to speak peace, comfort, and joy into our hearts. He wants to be in communion with us. Not just on occasion, but every day with every breath in and out.
This week, select a meaningful verse or chapter in the Psalms and pray your way through the words. Talk with your Friend, Jesus. Listen for the words of truth He shares back with you as you breath in and breath out His grace.