Each week, I’ll share with you a spiritual discipline that I’ve found helpful. Some may be considered “classical” spiritual disciplines, such as types of prayer or Bible study. Others may be more unorthodox. Either way, spiritual disciplines are activities that are meant to draw us closer to God. They aren’t meant to manipulate or control God or our relationship with him. Rather, they are meant to bring life, refreshment and renewal to our relationship with him and others.
“Mom, today I feel electric!”
According to my mother, 6-year-old me spoke these words to her after a fantastic day at school. If I could pick a phrase that best described me as a child, it would be those 3 words: I feel electric! I was always busy, filled with energy and enthusiasm. I wanted to experience everything. Today, that “electricity” still presents itself. But I’ve found that “I feel electric” has evolved into “I feel anxious.”
Anxiety has been something that has invaded my life. It comes and goes, I might have a few weeks or months where that gnawing in my chest and stomach is absent. But more often than not I struggle with anxiousness. Whether it’s obsessing over events or conversations to come or replaying past conversations obsessively, anxiety can control my life. When anxiety takes over, it robs me of peace and joy. It effects my relationship with my husband and I am less present in my friendships. It also impacts my quality of sleep. In short, I hate it.
Through different spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, I’ve found some relief from anxiety. Breath prayer especially has been helpful. It is simple and easy to incorporate into my life. Even better, it doesn’t requiring large amounts of time or effort to practice.
This is a great prayer method to try right before you read the Bible or throughout the day. Try it while in the shower or when you begin to feel anxious or stressed. I enjoy praying this way while I’m doing the dishes or driving.
Spiritual Exercise #1
Pick a meaningful name for God and a short phrase, from the Bible or something that is meaningful to you and expresses a desire you have.
- God, you are my provider.
- Father, you are in control of my life. (This is typically my breath prayer)
- Abba, help me to trust you.
- Shepherd, you take care of my family and me.
- Jesus, have mercy on me.
- Lord, I’m here.
Breathe in, thinking the name for God you have chosen:
Breathe out, thinking the simple phrase.
[Exhale] “you are my provider”
For your first time, try and do this for 5 minutes. You will get distracted and that’s ok! Rather than beat yourself up and get discouraged, each time you get distracted tell God “thank you for bringing my attention back to you!” Take another breath and start again.
Spiritual Exercise #2 (from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)
Is there someone for whom you wish to pray ceaselessly? Listen deeply to what Jesus’ desire for this person might be. Form a breath prayer naming God’s adequacy and your desire for that person. Throughout the day as they come to mind, offer up your prayer. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into long prayer dialogues about what you want God to do in this person’s life. Let breath prayer carry all your desires to God.
This is also something you can do with your children. In Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun suggests helping your kids craft their own breath prayer that they can say while at school or before bed.
Breath prayer has removed the pressure that I sometimes feel to perform for God. God has used it to help me slow down and trust him. We are forgetful people, breath prayer helps us to remember. Simply acknowledging truths about God in the form of a breath prayer has brought peace and trust into my fears and anxiety.
What are some spiritual disciplines that you’ve found helpful? Share your favorite practices and what they mean to you.