This past Sunday I concluded my message with a brief introduction to the Breath Prayer. I first learned of the Breath Prayer in 1983 from The Rev. Ron DelBene, an Episcopal priest. Ron wrote a book, The Breath of Life, describing the Breath Prayer. For nearly 34 years, the Breath Prayer has been an indispensable part of my prayer life.
The Breath Prayer is a personalized version of the Jesus Prayer made popular by a book, The Way of a Pilgrim, a 19th-century Russian work, recounting the narrator's journey as a pilgrim across Russia. This pilgrim decided to take seriously the Apostle Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). In order to try to understand how to pray without ceasing the pilgrim visited churches and monasteries. Finally, his travels led him to a spiritual father who taught him the Jesus Prayer. The book describes the gradual spiritual development and struggles of the pilgrim, and the incredible effect that his connection with God had on those around him. The sequel to this book is entitled The Pilgrim Continues his Way.
The Jesus Prayer is, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Those who practice the Jesus Prayer say these words as often as they are able throughout the day. One desired outcome is that people who practice this discipline have a keen sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit with them: God is never far from their thoughts.
As I mentioned earlier, the Breath Prayer is a variation of the Jesus Prayer. In my next blog I will provide instruction as to how you may discover your breath prayer. To lay the groundwork for my next blog, I refer to a story in Mark 10:46-52:
Then Jesus and the disciples came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Notice that the cry of Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” is the scriptural basis of the Jesus Prayer in its earliest form.
The question Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” is the foundation for the breath prayer. Next blog, I will elucidate.