Start Strong: Awake to His PresenceJill Weber - 4 Jan 2017
We're kicking off 2017 with a brand new blog series. Be inspired to build new rhythms of prayer at the start of the year.
Our first blog features a straightforward and simple habit to transform your year:
"it is a prayer of invitation. I need more of Jesus in my life."
What does it look like to pray without ceasing? A couple of years ago, I decided to try an experiment with an ancient monastic practice called breath prayer.
It’s a simple, short prayer; one that you can pray over the duration of, well, a breath. The monastics would pray it throughout their day.
You choose one of the names of God that is meaningful to you in some way. It could be “Abba”, “Good Shepherd”, or “Lord”. Then, name your desire. What is it that you want and need from God?
Frances of Assisi used the breath prayer, “My King and my God.” In the Russian Orthodox tale, The Way of the Pilgrim, the Pilgrim uses the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
My breath prayer? “Come Lord Jesus.”
I like it because it is a prayer of invitation. I need more of Jesus in my life.
It’s also a prayer of intercession. As I walk through my neighbourhood, I am constantly confronted with the effects of prostitution, homelessness and drug addiction. Problems way too big, far too complex for me to solve.
My community needs the presence of Jesus. So with my breath prayer, that’s what I ask for.
I’ve been using the same breath prayer for a couple of years now. It is said that over time, the prayer becomes an underground river flowing beneath your consciousness - I’ve found that to be true. Now when I’m not focused on something else, what’s the first thing that pops into my mind? Come Lord Jesus! It feels like the synapses of my brain have been re-routed, through repetition, towards invoking the presence of God.
"My community needs the presence of Jesus. So with my breath prayer, that's what I ask for..."
Recently my friend learned about breath prayer - his prayer was “Lord, have mercy.” The first day of his experiment, he was studying in a local cafe. He noticed a couple of young Muslim women at another table, and wondered if they’d ever have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Not knowing what else to do, he prayed his breath prayer. “Lord have mercy”.
Shortly after that, a man approached him. “Do you read the Bible?” the man asked, “I’m a Muslim, I’ve just read the Bible and I have a lot of questions. Would you be able to talk to me about them?”
Shocked and bemused, my friend said yes. As the Muslim man got up to leave, my friend asked him, “What brought you to the cafe today?”
“My daughters wanted to come,” he said nodding at the two young Muslim women my friend had been praying for.
My friend is now practicing his breath prayer in earnest.
So for the next week, experiment. Pick one of the names of God, name your desire, turn it into a prayer. Then pray it - 10 times a day; 100 times a day; a 1000 times a day. Perhaps set a reminder on your phone to remind you to return to your breath prayer.
Then, take some time to reflect. Did anything unusual happen when you made space for prayer? Were you more aware of God’s presence throughout your day? Did you notice your thought patterns or your emotions being impacted in any way?
So this year, take time to breathe. Pray. Offer to God your devotion and desire, and learn to live awake to His presence this year.