Calm Your Anxious Heart: The Complete Guide to Breath Prayers

In overwhelming moments breath prayers can be a way to calm down and focus on God.

If you’re walking through a hard season right now and you are super busy, you probably feel like you don’t have time to pray. You’re struggling to connect with God because you’re so overwhelmed and you just don’t have the head space or the emotional space for long prayers or to sit down and connect and focus.

You know what? I get it. But I have found something that really helps me in those moments, and it has become an integral part of my time with God. I’ve also discovered so many other benefits since I started putting this into practice. What is this thing? Breath prayers which I’m going to share with you today.

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I’m so excited to share breath prayers with you because I realized that this is something that I’ve done for a really long time but not everybody is familiar with it. The biggest example that I can give you of a breath prayer is in Nehemiah.

At the beginning of Nehemiah, we see him serving the king and receiving news that bad things are happening. The temple’s not being rebuilt, everything’s a mess, and he needs to go to the king and ask for permission to go home and be a part of rebuilding the wall and rebuilding the temple.

Now, at this moment, Nehemiah does not have an hour or days to go before God in prayer and do all the things to get ready. No, he’s got about two seconds and he just stops and says, “Help me, Lord!” Then he gets what he needs from God and he goes and approaches the king.

That is an illustration of the power of a breath prayer. I’m going to talk about two things today: science and the Bible. Breath prayers combine both of them.

The Science Behind Breath Prayers

The big thing about breath prayer is that it includes your breath. You’re going to take deep breaths: inhale and exhale. It really is that simple and that fast. The reason that it’s so powerful is twofold because you’ve got the science and you’re pairing it with scripture so it becomes this really powerful tool to help you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

I promise the science part is going to be really easy to understand because I am NOT a science gal. The first thing about deep breaths and breathing is that it’s great for lowering stress and anxiety. You probably already know this.

When people are really agitated, emotional, or upset they’re often told to calm down and take some deep breaths. This works well because those deep belly breaths tell your nervous system to calm down. It tells your brain, “Hey, we need to calm down. We’re panicking. We’re really anxious. We need to just sit down, take a beat, and calm down.”

What happens when you are worried about something or you’re anxious about something, you hold your breath, right? How many times have you said, “Oh my goodness, I feel like I can breathe again” when something gets resolved?

When you feel overwhelmed, you hold your breath, which tells your brain and body that you are in danger or stressed, and that is why you get worked up. It’s why you start breathing really fast if you’re having anxiety or a panic attack.

The answer to that is to begin to let go, exhale, and take those deep breaths so that you can calm yourself down. Often people live life, at least I do, waiting for the next shoe to drop,  waiting for the next terrible and horrible thing that’s going to happen.

Hear me, that is literally you walking around holding your breath. You can’t hold your breath for a long time. Eventually, you’re going to pass out because your body and your brain need oxygen. This is why deep breathing is so helpful.

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Breathing Exercises for Breath Prayers

I’m going to give you two breathing exercises that have helped me in the past. The first one is called 4-7- 8. You’re going to inhale for the count of four, hold for the count of seven, and then exhale for the count of eight.

I know that that seems really weird, but holding your breath at the top and then exhaling it slowly is really great for telling that nervous system to calm down. Give it a try. Inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Exhale. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 

Now if you’re new to deep breathing, it might be a little difficult. Another exercise that I like to start with is called a square breath or square breathing. For this one, you’re going to breathe in for four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, and then start over.

Think of it as drawing a square. When I learned this method, I would actually take my finger in the air and draw the square as I counted around. Give it a try. Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 1, 2, 3, 4. Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 1, 2, 3, 4. 

Do that as many times as it takes to feel calmer. You could also just take a deep breath and let it go. These are all great ways to get those deep breaths to help you calm down. 

Using Scripture for Breath Prayers

Breath prayer is awesome because it combines science with the Bible. It’s a great way to express what’s going on in your heart and mind when you’re confused, angry, upset, in despair, or whatever you’re feeling. It’s a great way to let go of that and give it to God. To center yourself on God instead of the thing that’s causing you to worry so much.

Remember I talked about how you’re holding your breath when you’re worried? When you put your focus on God, it really helps you to stop holding your breath, stop panicking, and stop worrying. It’s also a great tool for meditating on scripture.

When you practice those methods for deep breathing you can link scripture to whatever it is that you’re doing. It’s so easy. You can repeat scripture to yourself while you are inhaling, holding, and exhaling as a way to meditate and repeat to yourself over and over, whatever truth you’re standing on, whatever scripture verse comes to mind. 

I really like tying whatever I’m feeling to a specific characteristic or nature of God. My favorite breath prayers come from Psalm 23.  I will inhale, “The Lord is my shepherd” and exhale, “I lack nothing”.  You can inhale God’s name and exhale what that means for you. Keep doing that over and over again until you feel a peace come in.

Another way to do this is to inhale what you’re feeling and then exhale something about God or a truth that you found in scripture. For example,  inhale “I feel like I’m all alone” and exhale, “No, the Lord promises to be with me always”. 

Final Thoughts on Breath Prayers

You can do this with any scripture, any promise, or any name of God. This is why breath prayers are so easy and powerful. You can do them when you have one minute or half an hour. It doesn’t matter. Your quiet time with God could be spent in solitude, in silence, and doing breath prayers.

Breathing out all of your worries, what’s on your mind and heart. Inhaling and inviting the peace of God to come and reside in your heart and mind so that you can be calm and go about your day. 

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Next time you’re feeling anxious take a few moments to do some breath prayers.

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