Blue and gold decorate the city of Berkeley during graduation weekend, saying goodbye to Cal graduates and hello to summer. It's always a bittersweet time, as I know there are many students who are spreading their wings and transitioning to a new adventure ahead. For returning students, the stress of taking finals, packing up boxes, and moving apartments is intense, but short-lived. And after a week of all-nighters and celebrating with friends, summer is here!
It's easy to coast in your faith this summer, but instead of choosing a desert, opt instead for a rich and connected season with God. Now that's easier said than done, of course, but we would love to share here some spiritual disciplines periodically throughout the summer that will help you run to Jesus for more. Many will be taken from the book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun and paraphrased here. Inside her book, there are 75 different practices and disciplines to cultivate closeness with God.
Try this one. Breath Prayer.
Breath prayer reminds us that we need Jesus desperately, even for every breath we take. It's not about praying only when we have a request, or when we think about it, or when we happen to be in a circle at Bible study. A breath prayer reorients us to God throughout the day. It's short, it's sweet, it's a humble attempt to connect rightly and regularly with God.
The Way of the Pilgrim describes breath prayer like this.
"Take a seat of solitude and silence. Bend you head, close your eyes and breathing softly, in your imagination, look into your own heart. Let your mind, or rather, your thoughts flow from your head down to your heart and say, while breathing: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." Whisper these words gently or say them in your mind. Discard all other thoughts. Be serene, preserving and repeat them over and over again."
Here are some other breath prayers Adele suggests:
Breathe in "Holy One," breathe out "Keep me true."
Breathe in "Lord," breathe out "Here I am."
Breathe in "Shepherd," breathe out "Lead me by still waters."
Breathe in "Spirit," breathe out "Come, Holy Spirit, come."
Breathe in "Jesus," breathe out "My soul glorifies the Lord."
Or how about these?
Breathe in "Father," breathe out "Direct my path."
Breathe in "Master," breathe out "I surrender all."
Breathe in "God," breathe out "I need you today."
Breathe in "Spirit," breathe out "Give me strength."
Breathe in "Jesus," breathe out "Purify my heart."
Try other names of God, or identify needs you have for spiritual strength.
The most important aspects to cultivating the practice of breath prayer is that you would find a quiet place, a refuge from your normal day, to contemplate your relationship with God. It could be on a walk back home, but where you are able to concentrate in the empty space, in the silence, in the quietness of your own heart. Feel the rhythm of your body as you slowly inhale and exhale, acknowledging the simplicity of needing physical air to breathe and spiritual air for true life. Try the same breath prayer for a day, or a week. Then try another one.
"Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18