How to Pray Using Breath Prayers or Sentence Prayers

Breath prayers are short one sentence prayers that you pray throughout the day or repeat over and over again.  Because breath prayers are not long and complicated, they can be done while doing other things. 

People use breath prayers to come closer to the ideal of being able to “pray continually” as recommended in the Bible.  (I Thessalonians 5:17) 

Breath prayers are extremely calming.  Doing measured breathing is a scientifically proven technique for stress relief and refocusing our minds.      

How to pray the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart, the most famous breath prayer

The Jesus Prayer, also known as the Prayer of the Heart, can be traced to 6th Century Orthodox churches. 

The words of the prayer are, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

The Jesus Prayer can be prayed out loud or silently in rhythm while breathing in and out.  Here’s an example: 

Inhale:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God

Exhale: Have mercy on me a sinner

The object of repeatedly praying the Jesus Prayers is to embed the words into your heart and mind until they become a natural part of your life like breathing in and out.

The words bring power by first invoking the presence of Jesus and acknowledging him as God’s son.  Then it asks God to come to our aid by being merciful to us because we are flawed people unable to save ourselves.      

This prayer is similar to a Scripture found in Luke 18:13 where Jesus tells about a tax collector sincerely praying for forgiveness in the temple court.  The tax collector says, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  (Luke 18:13 NIV) 

Jesus commends the tax collector’s prayer by saying, “I tell you that this man (the tax collector) rather than the other, (the boasting, self-righteous religious leader who was showing off when he prayed) went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:14 NIV)

How to pray Scripture breath prayers or sentence prayers      

Any verse from the Bible can be prayed as a sentence prayer by memorizing it and then repeating it rhythmically as you inhale and exhale. 

Here are some examples of sentence breath prayers that pray Bible verses exactly as written.  (The wording can vary according to the version of the Bible you prefer to use.) 

Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10)

Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil.  (Psalm 23:4)

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.  (Psalm 25:4 NIV)

To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.  (Psalm 3:4 NIV)

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved.  (Jeremiah 17:14 NIV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 15:27 NIV)

I do believe.  Help me overcome my unbelief.  (Mark 9:24 NIV)

How to pray breath prayers based on Scripture

Breath prayers can also be composed using promises from the Bible.  You can create breath prayers based on the Scriptures by choosing a verse that meets your needs.  Here are some examples I made up:

Help me be strong and courageous.  Help me not to be afraid.  (based on Deuteronomy 31:6)

Jesus, I take heart because you have overcome the world. (based on John 16:33)

God, thank you that you will help.  Strengthen me and hold me up with your hand.  (based on Isiah 41:10)

Help me to love others because you first loved me.  (based on I John 4:19)

Thank you that when I am weak, I am strong in you.  (based on 2 Corinthians 12:10)

Let all I do be done in love.  (based on I Corinthians 16:14) 

How to pray sentence breath prayers you make up or others have made up

There are unlimited breath prayers that others have written and used and unlimited ones that you can compose yourself based on your needs.   Here are several I quickly composed:

May your healing power flow through me now.

Guard my thoughts and guide my words

Grant me strength for the task ahead.

Keep my eyes on you, Lord, and not on my circumstances.

Jesus, I praise you for you are good.

How to pray breath prayers using lines from hymns or Christian songs

Hymns and songs can be a great source of material for breath prayers.  Often such lyrics are short and they’re easy to remember because they are connected with a melody.  They often rhyme and have cadence.  Some are often used as a refrain which makes them well suited to repeating.

Here are some examples:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.  Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me.  Let me hide myself in thee.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.   

How to pray breath prayers using church liturgy

Lines and responses used during worship services can be used as breath prayers or sentence prayers.  Here are a few examples.

The Kyrie Eleison

The means Lord have mercy in Greek. This liturgical response says: “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.

The Doxology

This is often often sung in church when the collection is presented to God: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise him all creatures here below…”

The Glory Be or the Gloria Patri

This is a congregational response which is either repeated or sung, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.” 

The invocation of the Holy Spirit

This is a short prayer asking the Holy Spirit into us.  Here’s the first sentence.   “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” 

How to pray breath prayers using quotes or lines from prayers written by historical or contemporary Christians

Often you can make a sentence prayer out of a line or two from a prayer composed by a Christian writer.  Here are some examples:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  (The first line of the Peace Prayer by St. Frances of Assissi)

Take full possession of my heart; raise there your throne.  (From “Take Full Possession of My Heart” a prayer written by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.)

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed.  (From the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr)

How to pray breath prayer using lines from poems

Sentence prayers and breath prayers using lines from poems work well because of the cadence and well-crafted and inspiring words. 

Here’s an example from a contemporary Christian poet, Merissa Lee Kelley who has allowed us to share her prayers on our website.  

“Don’t count the problems, count the steps that God has walked with you
He’ll give you joy and that’s your strength…to see this journey through”  (From Praying with Joy in all Circumstances copyright Merissa Lee Kelley 2008)

My experiences with breath prayers

I was introduced to the Jesus Prayer many years ago when I did a prayer workbook with a study group at church.  The workbook suggested we try doing the prayer using while inhaling and exhaling.  This was new to me, but I found that the more I did it, the more I found it brought me into prayer.

Although I don’t consciously think about it, often when I find myself in a difficult situation I find myself praying silently, “Lord have mercy.”  Just that small phrase of prayer helps me tremendously.

More recently, the prayer committee at our church decided to create a series of breath prayer for the congregation to use as a spiritual journey during the church seasons of Advent ( 4 weeks leading up the Christmas) and Lent (40 days leading up to Easter.)

We each wrote breath prayers and once they were collected we sent them to our church media specialist who superimposed them onto inspiring photos.  These breath prayer pictures were put on our church website and facebook page so we could pray them each day along with our fellow church members.  You could also sign up to have one emailed to you each day during Lent or Advent.     

Here are some examples of the sentence prayers created by the prayer committee members:

Search me and find me responsive to your will.

God, make me a blessing to someone today.

I will sing songs of joy and be happy today.

Other Helpful Articles

Short arrow prayers

The Glory Be Prayer or the Gloria Patri Prayer

How to Pray Without Ceasing

Gratitude Prayer for God’s Presence and Care

Prayer poems by Merissa Lee Kelley

Copyright Karen Barber 2019.  All rights reserved.