This is morning I presented my final project for year one of Spiritual Director training, which was a six session plan for a small group to practice breath prayer. I led my class in one of the sessions and I thought that it was going to seem forced and bit artificial because of being evaluated and all. But, man, even with my lowered expectations, the Spirit showed up!
Breath prayer apparently was exactly what the group participants, including my Spiritual Director, needed this morning. After the period of silent breath prayer, we entered into a time to write in our journals and then a time to witness to one another about our experiences in the prayer time. The depth of sharing was incredible, as God had spoken to each us in surprising, unique and very intimate ways. It was actually a bit overwhelming, but only because I found myself fighting against the part of myself that doesn't like to risk vulnerability. However, since the leader of the group is a participant, I did finally relax, followed my breath, and God was there.
In breath prayer, you pray a word or short phrase or sentence along with each breath you take. This prayer form helps us to "pray without ceasing." You discover your breath prayer by imagining God asking you, "What do you want?" Then, you choose a name for God that is meaningful to you at that moment. For instance, if what you are seeking is comfort and your name for God is "Shepherd," then your breath prayer could be, "Shepherd, let me know your comfort."
My breath prayer this morning was "Spirit, help me to be ready" because I am in a discernment period and believe that my next call is imminent. As I was praying, I found that I was having a great deal of difficulty taking deep breaths. As I inhaled through my nose, I felt like something was blocking my breath. I tried breathing in through my mouth, but that was only slightly better.
I felt the Spirit saying to me, "I want to teach you something here. Relax, don't force. Part of 'being ready' is to resist your tendency to be impatient and to force. Trust me to 'ready' you and know that a congregation is being 'readied' too for your leadership." In my prayer, I also felt the freedom to "let loose" of a congregation I have been in contact with that I know in my heart is not my call. I've been holding on to them as sort of a life preserver because I am fairly certain that they would extend a call to me. (I know that sounds really arrogant, but that is the sense that I get from them.) I understand now that, in a way, my holding on to them is like blocking the breath of the Spirit.
Tonight I had a second phone interview with the PNC (search committee) from a different congregation. While some phone interviews feel like an interrogation, this was more of a meaningful conversation among friends. When I pray about this potential call, my breath is free and I am able to fill my lungs.