Guest blogger Joan Kelley lends us her reflections on breath prayer in light of our time together last Sunday.

Listen to God’s invitation to practice His presence.

I give you the gift of peace. In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you.  Now He drew close enough to each of them that they could feel His breath. He breathed on them.”  –John 20:21-22

What if this is how I lived my life – so close to God, that His presence filled me like oxygen?  What if with each breath I was actually aware of His presence?

The frigid temperatures in Chicago last week actually reminded me of my breathing. When I did go outside, I could feel every breath I took.  It was raw and fresh and full. I could feel the capacity of my lungs. I could see my breath. I was fully aware of my breath.  I breathe oxygen every day.  It’s happening all day long but last week I became aware.

For me, one of the foundational keys of the spiritual life comes down to awareness…awareness of self and awareness of God.  John Calvin says “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” It’s this glancing back and forth between God and me as I become aware of who He is and who I am in Him.  It’s much like the rhythm of breathing as He’s calling and wooing me into relationship.  And it starts with awareness of His presence.   He’s been there all along like the oxygen I breathe but I need to become aware.

Sometimes this concept of being aware of God’s presence can feel kind of lofty and out of my reach.  How do I practically do that?  How do I, on this side of heaven, create space and then engage with God in this intimate way?   How do I do it in a daily way, a tangible way that aligns me with God’s constant closeness?  How do I close this gap that I can sometimes feel between me down here and “our father in heaven” up there?

I think spiritual practices are the gift that God gave us to build our relationship with Him on a daily basis.  Spiritual practices can help me break down the gap and allow me to take steps toward God and feel His breath on our face.   For me, spiritual practices are simply on-ramps to my relationship with God – ways to engage with God, listen to God, be heard and known by God and allow me to become more of who He created in me.

Breath prayer is a powerful yet simple spiritual practice focused on using the rhythm of our breathing to become aware of God’s presence in your day.  As you breathe in, you voice a name of God that is significant for you.  As you breathe out, you name a deep desire for God.  You continue to repeat this prayer with the rhythm of your breathing.   It’s a simple way to practice the presence of God throughout your day. As you grow in this practice you will begin to move toward praying without ceasing.

My desire is to be not just a follower of Christ, to not just be in the vicinity of Christ.  I want to be in Christ in such a way that He’s closer than the air I breathe.  This is how I want to live my life in the here and now, and the now and not yet…to practice His presence in such a way that I’m so close to Him throughout my day that I can feel His breath and in turn receive His peace in the midst of my day.

Grace and Peace,
Joan Kelley