Breath Prayer

Q: In The Contemplative Outreach News, December 2009, you had an article entitled, “Reflections on the beginning: 1983.” In it, you mentioned Fr. Keating recommending four spiritual exercises; one of them was the development of the breath prayer, which might help us truly be followers of our Lord who prayed constantly. I am unfamiliar with the breath prayer; I would appreciate your describing it.

A: The breath prayer is simply taking a prayer/scripture phrase and praying it in rhythm with our breathing. I remember taking a phrase from the writing of St. Anthony the Desert Father: “I walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living” As I walk, I breathe in “I walk in the Presences of the Lord”, and breathing out, “in the land of the living”. This practice is based on the wisdom that as the phrase becomes more part of me, it is erasing or purifying some of the recurring thoughts that happen as I am going about the business of life. It really helps us put on the mind of Christ by eliminating some of the other chatter that goes on in us as a constant commentary.