A breath prayer

At the end of each spiritual direction session, I ask the person to think back on our

conversation and see if they can find one word or phrase that seems to jump out at

them from all the things we discussed. I encourage people to just let a word surface,

don’t go hunting for it. Almost always a key word presents itself. And then I ask the

person to create something called a breath prayer. A breath prayer is a prayer that

can be said in one breath – 6 or 8 words. Often the prayer might start with the

words “May I …” and the person then goes on to create a sentence that encapsulates

something they want to remember, to focus on, to point towards in the coming

month. A breath prayer might be very specific; “I will write from my heart for 6

minutes each day.” But more commonly, people focus on a larger longing; “May I

find joy in this day”. “May I be kind today.” Then the practice is to write the prayer

down and place it somewhere where you will see it a few times during the day and

to “pray” the prayer each morning. In the evening, people commonly also look back

on the day to see how they did on the central issue of the prayer. Not so much with

the idea of rewarding or punishing yourself for attaining or not attaining the named

objective. But, more just to keep in front of you, what it is you really want in your



It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

— Mary Oliver

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