Seeds of Devotion
By Julia Attaway

Breathing Prayer: Devotions for Anxiety

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:

While inhaling

While exhaling

Come Holy Spirit…

fill my heart

Lord Jesus…    

grant me your peace

Lord Jesus…         

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.

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Your Comments (17)

My husband has aspergers and sometimes he has anxiety attacks during worship. Sometimes when I pray it gets worse. He can't control his breathing because he can't breathe at all. I'm a believer but I'm afraid he's going to die. He literally stops breathing
He looses total control of his body. And I'm lost. I don't know what to do when prayer makes it worse. I'm trying really hard not to give up but I'm lost. I need help. Please.

Hi Serena. Bless you <3

This was a timely reminder, when I found it in my inbox this morning, as anxiety and worry want to worm their way into my consciousness today. There are also some Scripture-based breath prayers I have found helpful, as I do like praying from God's Word. You can find them at this site: http://www.soulshepherding.org/2012/07/breath-prayers-from-the-bible/

Thank you for putting a name to this. I lost my 5 month old daugher 4 years ago to a incidental death. I've handled this the best way God could possibly coast me through it. I'm blessed to have other children still living. I have plenty to live for. I have more than I deserve to give God all the glory. Anxiety plays a SMALL role in my life when I'm alone. I've handled it just the way you described breathing prayer. It hits my face like fire and runs completely down my entire body in a matter of seconds. I see my self reliving the most horriblest party of my daughers death. But I immediately begin this routine. Pray FAST! Believe FAST! Thank God QUICKLY. Breathing slowly. Thank you for this. I recommend this get up for anybody the enemy tries to decieve in the midst of anxiety.

Thank you for that insight on breathing prayer. I found that helpful too. I use to suffer from to much anxiety too even though I have been fortunate enough to experience and receive what I believe to be miracles. In fact I know they are. Thank you

This was right on time for me. I am on medication for anxiety that usually happens(ed) when I drive the car. In spite of the meds, whenever I don't get enough rest or am tired, I can still feel a little anxiety creep in. This morning, it was pouring rain & I couldn't always see and that kicked up the anxiety a little. I will embed these breathing techniques into my head so I can use them when needed. Thank you!

I have been feeling anxious myself - well I suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression for many years. I feel I have been robbed of many years of my life, yet at the same time I think it has strengthened me and made me a more compassionate person. I have an elderly father who has become more demanding over the last 12 months since having 3 cancers removed from his head. We are still visiting hospital regularly and my father is always worrying about something or other. Also, I had an operation on my tendo-mandibular joint (jaw) two years ago, which I have to have repeated a week on Wednesday (25 January), so am quite anxious about that. This article which I just found in my inbox is very timely!

I was plagued by anxiety attacks for years, finally got off medication for them and thought they were gone completely. They started to come back after Christmas so I prayed a special prayer to Our Lord to please take the anxiety away, in the name of Jesus Christ, told him thank you and how blessed I was to have him in my life, was thankful for all he does for me, asked him to forgive my sins and to cast out all evil in Jesus name. The Lord is so true to his word as immediateley I felf more calm and pray this every time the awful feeling tries to come into me. I pray a lot each day for everything anyway, but this prayer was specific for me and the awful feeling anxiety brings. No matter how much of a believer you are we have to remember that the devil will still try to invade us, even more the closer we get to God. Thankfully the devil is NOTHING compared to Our God. Thank You LORD.

Another solution I found helpful is saying Thank you God, thank you God, and listing all the things you can be thankful for, can take you all day!!! It's amazing how healing it can be to say thank you!!! No matter what is going on !! Say Thank you God. Healing is already here, we just have to say thank you! We can't hold two thoughts in are head at the same time, so that means we can't be depressed or anxious when we are being thankful....just keep it going.....even being thankful for toenails....it's great!
Thankful here!

Ever feel like a devotional comes along just when you need it the most? This one did for me. I am a 63 year old retiree (young at heart ...other parts not so young) who is the sole caregiver of a 37 year old son who is mentally and physically challenged. I love him dearly and have him living with me by choice. Wouldn't change a thing. It DOES get overwhelming and stressful at times though and I tend to internalize the stress and that results in anxiety. I am really going to practice this prayer. Instead of just waiting until the end of the day and sharing everything with the Lord, I will pray this prayer whenever I feel I need it ....which should be fairly frequently. The peace of Christ would be a welcome change.

God bless you.

You remind of someone who I believe is the nicest person I have ever met. I sure wish I could be taken back into the flock sometimes. I'm not trying to be a bad person and I don't think I am. I'm someone who is created by the blessed Lord too. (I hate that word by because who ever wants to say by to Love especially the best love you ever had and that unconditional and non-judgmental which in my opinion is the highest form of Love their is. Jesus accomplished that and whet he set out to do and that is saving those who needed saving. So a place that just want's to bring up dirt even if they have too or think they have to break the law in doing so such as well intimidation such as choking you while your arms and legs are tied with leather straps. That's a real winner. I played confession to people who have confessed things but I have to admit I've never heard of that happening in what you would think would be a professional environment and above such odd ways of extracting information. And I think I proved a point. A place that would bring up things you've done wrong goes against scripture as Jesus taught. In case you wonder what was going through my mind I was hoping they would investigate so it wouldn't happen to anyone else. What does that message say if you have problems don’t go to a hospital where for the life of you, you can’t figure out why their treating you that way. Like they singled you out for impartial and unfair treatment and well lets further deny his sense of self worth even more by being rude, mean and breaking the law by physically hitting and tying my arms and legs with leather straps so I can’t fight back. Not that I was wanting too I let them tie me because I figured they wouldn’t be so mad at me anymore and wouldn’t be hitting me. Wouldn’t stay in the same room afterwards because then they knew I was mad and they were scared. Go figure their the one’s choking me over and over where I can’t breathe and getting ready to go see the good Lord and hoping they would investigate my demise so it wouldn’t happen to anyone else being murdered in a hospital on a Sunday where you went to get help and you knew they weren’t trying to help you. Oh my gosh that is crazy is it any wonder the Lord was leading me to write a book prior to that.

This is wonderful and so helpful. I have faced some health scares in the past 4 months and the Lord has brought me through. I am nearly healed and doing so much better but occasional anxiety still comes calling. Tonight this was exactly what I needed to read. Those who are ailing and sick, trust in Jesus and know that He is our great physician! It felt so hopeless for me 4 months ago and today I've had a busy fun day taking my kids to the park and doing everyday normal things I couldn't do just a short while ago. Turn to God in everything.

Blessed is the Blessed Lord Jesus and I would like to say how thankful I am that we live a Country as good as ours. And I also like to say I'm thankful I'm not being choked over and over while my arms and legs are tied with leather straps too. THANK YOU. AND BLESSED THE lORD JESUS TOO WHOM I GIVE CREDIT TOO FOR FREEING ME FROM SUCH A ABUSIVE SITUTION. THANK YOU, RICHARD GROSS BORN ON NATIVE SOIL IN THE UNITED STATES WHOM NO ONE AS THE RIGHT TO TREAT SOMEONE LIKE THAT.

Blessed is the Blessed Lord Jesus and I would like to say how thankful I am that we live a Country as good as ours. And I also like to say I'm thankful I'm not being choked over and over while my arms and legs are tied with leather straps too. THANK YOU. AND BLESSED THE lORD JESUS TOO WHOM I GIVE CREDIT TOO FOR FREEING ME FROM SUCH A ABUSIVE SITUTION. THANK YOU, RICHARD GROSS BORN ON NATIVE SOIL IN THE UNITED STATES WHOM NO ONE AS THE RIGHT TO TREAT SOMEONE LIKE THAT.

Thank you. I'm in a health crisis scare right now and really needed this. God bless you.

Thank you so much for this article! It is timely! and you're right saying "When anxiety’s got you in its grip, it’s hard to avoid worrying about tomorrow." This is what I was thinking earlier. I trust God will deliver me from the fears and I surrender control over my life to Him! God bless.

This is a good article, but the elements seem to have been taken from the Soul Shepherding website, which I highly recommend. It's filled with excellent advice, counsel and techniques, and its creator are a husband and wife team of psychologists (The Gaultieres) in Southern California. That is where you will find excellence on the subject.