It’s the end of a long day. I struggle to take off my shoes. My shoulders sag. I want to forget about everything. The temptation is to find a movie, grab some chocolates, and crash in front of the television.
However, the American Institute on Stress says this type of activity does not help.
Instead, they recommend to effectively combat stress and improve overall wellness, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. This is done through simply breathing! Focused, deep breathing for 20-30 minutes a day reduces anxiety and its effects.
Now when you’re freaking out, and someone says tells you to take a deep breath. it makes sense. It really can help.
Deep breathing stimulates part of the nervous system which promotes a state of calmness. Doctors are using it to treat stress-related illnesses.
Isn’t it amazing how God has built into our bodily system a way to relieve the physical and emotional aspects of stress?
Breathing cannot be separated from the spiritual side of life, either.
When we look in the Bible we see that spiritual and physical breath mingle together.
Right back at the beginning of the world, God, who is Spirit, breathed on Adam to give him physical life. The spiritual breath of God led Adam to inhale and exhale his first physical breath.
Later on Job explains this as:
The Spirit of God has made me, the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4, NIV
It’s hard to distinguish if Job is talking about his physical life, or spiritual life—I think it’s probably both.
God also gives us physical and spiritual life through his breath.
Jesus modeled it. He used his physical breath to give spiritual breath — the Holy Spirit — to his followers.
So, if physical breath cannot be separated from spiritual life then let’s combine the stress-relieving breathing, as suggested by the American Institute– that physical inbuilt system God has given us—with the spiritual practice of prayer to improve our overall wellbeing.
How do we put this into practice?
One way is to use your physical breath and God’s Word—the breath of life—together.
Breath Prayer is an ancient Christian practice used for centuries. The most famous breath prayer is called The Jesus Prayer.
In breath prayer you take a phrase from scripture and repeat it as you breathe in and out.
Take the phrase at the beginning of Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd and make it a prayer.
It works like this:
As you breathe in say: The Lord, and as your breathe out say: is my Shepherd. Repeat this with each breath.
Let the phrase remind you of the comforts and security that God promises in the remainder of the psalm—you don’t lack anything, you can rest and not lose sleep. He will give you refreshment. He will guide you. Even though your world seems dark, you have nothing to fear. God is with you and he will give you comfort.
Instead of zoning out in from of the television, breathe deeply and pray.
Do you have a favorite Psalm? Turn a phrase from this Psalm into a breath prayer.
Use the breath prayer above, or one of your own, to breath God’s Spirit and life into your stressful situation.
How did your time with the Lord in prayer change how you felt? What phrase did you use for your breath prayer?