Category Archives: Word-Based Prayer

Exercise 53: You, who are closer than our breath, speak to us from the silence

Background:  My wonderful spiritual community is praying through the psalms, one a day.  The Pastor recommended ‘Psalms for Praying’ by Nan C. Merrill.  I had planned on ignoring her.  I felt like I could navigate through the difficult language that pops up in many of the psalms as they are traditionally translated.  Then she gave me the book, and it felt ungrateful not to read them there.  And I was glad I did.

As we read psalm 45, I approached it in a lectio-kind of mind set, looking for some words that spoke to me.  A few stanzas in, I came to this: “You, who are closer than our breath/  speak to us from the silence.”  As you can see below, I took a few minor liberties with the phrasing.

It felt right to build in increasing empty spaces in this exercise.  A precise count is not particularly important.  Therefore, one approach to “five deep breaths” Is to simply accept that 4 or 6 will also do.  The alternative is to use the thumb and finger tips to help keep track: On the first breath, touch thumb of both hands to pointer finger of both hands.  On the second breath, thumb to middle finger.  On the third thumb to ring finger.  On the fourth thumb to pinky.

The Exercise

  1.  Release your worries and expectations with a deep exhale.
  2. Inhale.
  3. Take two more deep, cleansing breaths.
  4. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  5. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  6. Inhale.  Exhale.
  7. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  8. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  9. Take two deep breath.
  10. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  11. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  12. Take three deep breaths.
  13. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  14. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  15. Take four deep breaths.
  16. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  17. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  18. Spend a time in wordless communion.  Try to release all of the words.
  19. When you feel that you have begun to drift off, or are ready to resume the practice,  With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  20. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  21. Take four deep breaths.
  22. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  23. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  24. Take three deep breaths.
  25. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  26. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  27. Take two deep breaths.
  28. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  29. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.”
  30. Take one deep breath.
  31. With the next inhale, think or say “You are closer than our breath.”
  32. With the next exhale, think or say “Speak to us from your silence.

Know that you can return to these phrases through out your day.

 

 

Exercise 44: An alternative Examen

Background: This approach to the examen was inspired by Phileena Heuertz’ close focus on Ignatius’ original words in her excellent ‘Mindful Silence.’  There is an interesting balance in this exercise of holding and releasing our emotions.

The Exercise:

  1. Inhale God’s presence deeply.  Exhale the stress of the day. Repeat this process 3 times if need be.
  2. Do your best to find some gratitude.  If it is not within you, it can be found in God’s presence which you are inhaling.
  3. Recall your day.  You might do this by thinking backwards, beginning with 24 hours ago and gradually moving forward.   See the whole of this time through that lens of thanksgiving. Become aware of those positives which were not expected.
  4. While still holding this gratitude, become aware of the emotions that you had through the day, and the emotions you hold now, as you review these memories.  Do your best to accept them for what they are. No judggement, submission, or resistance is necessary here.
  5. Choose one experience of the day.  Pray through this experience. Be aware of whatever your reactions to this experience are.  Ask God to lead you this experience and all of your reactions to it.
  6. Stay with this experience until you find peace about it.  If you have given the time you have for this and still feel unresolved, make a plan to return to this place soon.  
  7. Give thanks for God’s presence in your day.

 

Exercise 43

Background:  The truth?  I resisted this one for a while.  One minor problem was that it most naturally lead itself to just a few seconds, and I am more interested in practices which lend themselves to twenty minutes or half an hour.  But the bigger problem was that it seemed…  kind of cute and precious.  If spiritual practices had a personality, this one would have seemed very self-satisfied to me.

Then?  Then I tried it anyway.  And I quite like it.

I have provided several different forms of this exercise.  The first is the most common.  This takes a matter of seconds.  Perhaps you will find it useful to use it as a breath prayer as you go about your day.  The latter forms are ones which might be more reasonably used through an exercise.

Exercise 43A:

1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.

2.  Breathe.

3.  Think– or say– “Be still, and know that I am God.”

4.  Breathe.

5.  Think– or say– “Be still and know that I am.”

6.  Breathe.

7.  Think– or say– “Be still and know”

8.  Breathe.

9.  Think– of say– “Be still.”

10.  Breathe.

11.  Think– or say– “Be.”

12.  Breathe.

 

Exercise 43B

1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.

2.  Breathe.

3.  Think– or say– “Be still, and know that I am God.”

4.  Breathe.

(Repeat this process 3 times.)

5.  Think– or say– “Be still and know that I am.”

6.  Breathe.

(Repeat this process 3 times.)

7.  Think– or say– “Be still and know”

8.  Breathe.

(Repeat this process 3 times.)

9.  Think– of say– “Be still.”

10.  Breathe.

(Repeat this process 3 times.)

11.  Think– or say– “Be.”

(Repeat this process 3 times.)

12.  Take 3 cleansing Breaths.

 

 

 

Exercise 36: A Welcoming Prayer

Background: This prayer become popular in the centering prayer movement.  It was originally written by Mary Mrozowski.  It is a method of recognizing, then releasing difficult emotions.

Proponents of this prayer state that the focus should be on our feelings about life circumstances, rather than the exercise itself.

36 A

The Exercise:

  1.  Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change this feeling.’  or ‘I let go of my ___________’  or ‘God, I give you my _____________’
  6. Progress on to the next emotion, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. When you have worked through these emotions, spend a moment doing a mental inventory, assessing whether you feel differently.

36 B

  1. Create a safe, quiet environment for yourself.  Turn down your phone and consider lighting a candle.
  2. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  3. Take a mental inventory of where you are, right now.  List the feelings you are experiencing.  Do your best to engage this with a nonjudgemental attitude.  Your feelings are neither good nor bad.  They simply are.  
  4. Choose the feeling which seems to be the most impactful.  Think, or say “Welcome ___________”  (E.G. ‘Welcome, Fear.  Welcome, sadness.  Welcome, anxiety.  Etc.)
  5. Breathe once.
  6. Say, or think “I let go of my desire for security and survival.’
  7. Breathe again.
  8. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.’
  9. Breathe again.
  10. Say, or think ‘I let go of my desire for power and control.’
  11. Breathe.
  12. Say, or think, ‘I let go of my desire to change the situation.’
  13. If you wish, you can repeat this process for a second, troubling emotion.

If you would rather engage the welcoming prayer as an audiofile, consider this:

 

Exercise 35 Loving-Kindness

Background:  There is a Buddhist tradition of a loving-kindness meditation.  The exercises below are two versions recently practiced in The Faith-ing Project’s Thanksgiving Campaign.  The first more closely aligns with the Buddhist tradition.  The second reworks some of the Buddhist Concepts with a Christian, Gallic framework.

Exercise 35A: Buddhist Loving-Kindness Meditation
1.  Create a calm, and quiet space; turn off your phone and do your best to assure yourself of uninterupted time.
2. For the duration of this exercise, give yourself permission to be free of the duties and obligations that you normally submit yourself to.
3.  For a minute or two, simply breathe: in through the nose, and out through the mouth,
4.  Think of a person you feel gratitude for.  (Choose, more or less randomly, a single person to focus on.  Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to focus on others shortly.)
5. Inhale and  bring their appearance to your mind.  Try and hear their voice, and even smell their unique smell.  Feel, as best you can, their presence.  Exhale.
6.  For the duration of a breath, allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this person stirs within you at this moment.
7. With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May you be free from suffering.’
8. Exhale.
9.  With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May you be healthy.’
10. Exhale.
11.  With your next inhale, think ‘May you be happy.’
12.  Exhale.
13.  With your next inhale, think ‘May you find peace and joy.’
14. Exhale.
15.  For the next breath, rejoice in the thought that your friend would be experiencing all these.
16.  If there is more time you had set aside for your spiritual practice, you might move on to another person you feel grateful for.  If you are having trouble choosing, consider these questions:
Who are you grateful for in your home?  Who are you grateful for in your school or workplace?  Who are you thankful for in your social circles?  Who are you thankful for from your past?  Who are you thankful for in your present?  Are there people who took on a role of parent, sibling, boss, coworker, lover, friend, coach, leader, follower that you are thankful for?  People who shaped you personally, professionally, or spiritually?
Whoever you choose, the phrases to focus on are these:
May you be free from suffering.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you find peace and joy.
17.  When you are ready to conclude today’s practice, take a single, cleansing breath.
18.  Now, with your inhale, think this for yourself: May I be free from suffering.
19.  Exhale.
20.  With your inhale: May I be healthy.
21.  Exhale.
22.  With your inhale: May I be happy.
23.  Exhale.
24.  Inhale, think: May I find peace and joy.

Exercise 35B: A Gallic-Christian Practice.
1.  Create a calm, and quiet space; turn off your phone and do your best to assure yourself of uninterupted time.
2. For the duration of this exercise, give yourself permission to be free of the duties and obligations that you normally submit yourself to.
3.  For a minute or two, simply breathe: in through the nose, and out through the mouth,
4.  Think of a person you feel gratitude for.  (Choose, more or less randomly, a single person to focus on.  Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to focus on others shortly.)
5. Inhale and  bring their appearance to your mind.  Try and hear their voice, and even smell their unique smell.  Feel, as best you can, their presence.  Exhale.
6.  For the duration of a breath, allow yourself to experience whatever feelings this person stirs within you at this moment.
7. With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May the road rise up to meat you.’
8. Exhale.
9.  With your next inhale, think to this person ‘May the wind be always at your back.’
10. Exhale.
11.  With your next inhale, think ‘May the sun shine warm on your face.’
12.  Exhale.
13.  With your next inhale, think ‘May the rains fall softly on your fields’
14. Exhale.
15.  With the next inhale, think ‘May God hold you in the palm of his hand.’
15.  For the next breath, rejoice in the thought that your friend would be experiencing all these.
16.  If there is more time you had set aside for your spiritual practice, you might move on to another person you feel grateful for.  If you are having trouble choosing, consider these questions:
Who are you grateful for in your home?  Who are you grateful for in your school or workplace?  Who are you thankful for in your social circles?  Who are you thankful for from your past?  Who are you thankful for in your present?  Are there people who took on a role of parent, sibling, boss, coworker, lover, friend, coach, leader, follower that you are thankful for?  People who shaped you personally, professionally, or spiritually?
Whoever you choose, the phrases to focus on are these:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

17.  When you are ready to conclude today’s practice, take a single, cleansing breath.
18.  Now, with your inhale, think this for yourself: May the roads rise up to meet me..
19.  Exhale.
20.  With your inhale: May the winds always be at my back.
21.  Exhale.
22.  With your inhale: May the sun shine warm upon my face.
23.  Exhale.
24.  Inhale, think: May the rains fall soft upon my fields.
25.  Exhale.
26 Inhale, think, ‘May God hold me in the palm of his hand.’

Exercise 29: A Prayer for…

Background:  This exercise is a challenging one…  And goes best with minimal introduction.

 

Spiritual Exercise

  1.  Find your center.  Take a deep breath.
  2.  Breathe slowly, in through the nose.  
  3. Breathe out through the mouth.  If you like, place your hand on your abdomen, and feel the breath coming in and out.
  4. When you are ready, consider the things you are wishing for right now; what are you asking, from God?  They might be very specific.  They might be very abstract.  Whatever they are, bring them to mind.
  5. Consider the people you struggle with.  Enemies and opponent, people you struggle with.
  6. Bring back to mind the things you are wishing for.  And pray that the people that you are struggling with receive these things you are hoping for yourself.

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

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Exercise 28: The Jesus Prayer

Background: The Eastern (Orthodox) churches have a long history of supporting the repetition of this phrase.  It is traditionally suggested that this be said from the “heart” and not the “head.”  The instructions are generally to say it with out ceasing, preferably out loud.  The goal is to reach a place of ceaseless prayer, where these words are constantly being thought and experienced.

The Exercise

  1.  Place your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
  3. Say the following words out loud.  Try to feel their meaning.  “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  4. Repeat that phrase for the duration of your spiritual practice.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

You can help in turning The Faith-ing Project into a fully functioning community.  You can do this in several ways:

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and criticism below in the comments.
  • email otherjeffcampbell7@gmail.com to share something directly with the Project’s Director, to join our next email campaign, or to ask to be placed on the mailing list.
  • Access exclusive content and help The Faithing Project share spiritual practices with a world in desperate need.  Become a  Patron.
  • follow @faithingproject on twitter.