Praying Like Breathing : Thursday Thoughts
     Phillips Memorial Baptist Church

Phillips Memorial Baptist Church
565 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island  02910


Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton:

  Pastor Amy's Thursday Thoughts

Praying Like Breathing

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 08/17/23

Thus says YHWH,

Who created the heavens and spread them out,

Who gave shape to the earth and what it produces,

Who gave life [or breath] to its peoples and spirit to its inhabitants.

Isaiah 42:5


When I was a PhD student, I took a few seminars with Dr. Nancey Murphy, a Christian philosopher. Much of her work was in the area of what it means to be people who are bodies and who live in communities that shape and form us.


One of the most interesting parts of her work was her use of the neurosciences in her philosophy. Do you know that there are parts of our brain that are activated by watching someone do something just as if we were doing it ourselves? The neurons that would fire if we were to shake a hand also fire when we watch someone shake a hand. These are our mirror neurons. What a fascinating perspective of what it means for our kids to copy what we do rather than what we say, when what we do is literally being embedded in their brains as they watch us.


Our bodies are amazing - part of God’s good creation and made in God’s image. Our bodies are wonderfully intricate creations. Do you know about the vagus nerve? It runs from our brain and down through our internal organs. Amongst other things, it is responsible for our body’s fight or flight response. When stimulated by perceived or real threats, it can kick off the race to get away from danger. For many of us, this sympathetic nervous system response is our go-to, we perpetually rev high.


It is a good thing we can also use the vagus nerve to calm our bodies. The recent emphasis on deep breathing recognizes this possibility. By breathing deeply into our diaphragm we help the vagus nerve stimulate its parasympathetic response, which slows us down. In short: with deep breathing we can calm our bodies. What amazes me is that God made our bodies to be able to do this!


A good long time ago, some Christians used what was called the “breath prayer” as part of their meditation and prayer life. They prayed in pattern with deep breathing. This tied connecting with God in prayer to the calming and centering of the body. These early Christians recognized that prayer wasn’t just a task of the mind, but also a task of the whole body. Which means prayer didn’t just benefit the mind, it benefited the whole body. The Lord has given us breath, how miraculous that we can use that breath in prayer and in living.


Perhaps you might try a breath prayer this week. It takes some getting used to, because settling the heart and the breath is not our normal go-to, and often neither is prayer. But, God is present and waiting to give us peace whenever we seek it through prayer.


Dismiss all anxiety from your minds; instead, present your needs to God through prayer and petition, giving thanks for all circumstances. Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7




Pastor Amy



?    Bible Translation from The Inclusive Bible

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