Whenever I'm in trouble, I pray. And because I'm in trouble all of the time, I pray almost constantly.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Can we talk anxiety? You know what I mean: that roiling inner whirlwind, the blinding, gut-wrenching, confusion-making state of being that takes over our hearts and minds from time to time.
When anxiety’s got you in its grip, it’s hard to avoid worrying about tomorrow. It’s difficult to adopt a Jeremiah 29:11 attitude. Sometimes it seems all we can do is shove our fears heavenward and hope God takes them away. I think there’s a better way.
Anxiety works on a very primitive level. It has a physical component which we can counteract by applying a physical remedy. Several years ago I learned that there’s actually a right way to breathe to reduce anxiety and stress. The Harvard Health Blog calls it breath control. The technique has certain similarities with prayerful meditation, and since it’s completely compatible with faith, I personally call it “breathing prayer.”
Try this: Close your eyes and inhale slowly, imagining pulling the Spirit in so fully that it fills every pore of your body. Make sure your stomach expands; you want to be pregnant with peace. Exhale slowly through your nose.
You can pray while you do this (though if you’re anxious when you start, you probably won’t think of it until after a few breaths, when your head starts to clear). Simple prayers work best:
Come Holy Spirit…
fill my heart
grant me your peace
I love you
If you practice when you’re not in the throes of wild anxiety, it will be easier to pray this way when you are. But “breathing prayer” is a good addition to any regular prayer time. Anything that clears the head and calms the body frees us up to hear God better. And that’s what prayer is all about.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.