For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
- Psalm 72:12-15
The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.
- 1 Timothy 5:5
“Our back-and-forth communication with God might take the time-proven ‘breath prayer’ format, repeating a familiar prayer of nine or ten syllables or less that has great meaning. To those of us who have spent our energies reciting long lists of prayer requests, breath prayers may seem hackneyed and infantile, but they aren’t. Breath prayers are so simple that they are revolutionary.
“What a relief to grow into a relationship with God where we don’t have to go on and on explaining everything. We can rest in the confidence that God already knows and understands.
“We need this simplicity in a culture that wows people with words – adorning them with graphics, manipulating and convincing people with words. Breath prayers resemble the unblemished approach Jesus recommended when He spoke of offering a simple yes or no instead of elaborate oaths (Matthew 5:33-37).
Breath prayers are very different from ‘vain repetitions,’ which Jesus described as lofty, impressive recitations made for others to notice (Matthew 6:7). They are quiet groanings of the heart that become more meaningful as we use them. As we turn these prayers over and over, they become woven through these thoughts and may even transform our attitudes.”
- Jan Johnson, devotion entitled “Breath Prayers” from God’s Abundance, edited by Kathy Collard Miller
As a scout leader, I spent time with other scout leaders. One friend said that you need to be able to say the Scout Law in one breath. “A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” Of course, once you perfected saying that in one breath, you rarely seemed ‘reverent’ when you gasped for air afterwards. Then again, I think this same friend is the one who added ‘Sneaky’ to the list. Oddly, in different places each time.
When I first read this devotion, I was not impressed. After reading this portion of the devotion, you are probably asking, as I was, “What on earth are you talking about?”
In the following paragraphs of the devotion, Jan Johnson gives a few common breath prayers with a sentence or two about each. These are…
- Turn this person’s heart toward you.
- Do I need to change?
- Teach me through this negative behavior.
- Thank you for this person.
Oh, now I understand. When going through our church’s prayer list, I can say a breath prayer for each person under the heading of ‘healing’, “Provide healing for this person.” I can extend that to the care givers, “Give strength to those helping the sick and elderly.” For the bereavements, “Provide comfort, peace, and hope to those suffering loss.” Of course, there are other categories in the prayer list, but many of the people involved have similar issues, where a breath prayer is appropriate.
In the end of the prayer list, the first of the author’s breath prayers is always appropriate whether the person has come to know Jesus as their Savior or not. When we are grieving, hurting, sick, or in other ways broken, a gentle reminder to look toward Jesus is always welcome, and if they have never professed a saving knowledge in Him, this might be the time.
What the author is saying is that we do not have to be elaborate or use flowery words to be heard by God. In some ways, those flowery prayers, done in public, are less likely to be heard by God, at least heard with the same emotion as our private prayers are heard.
We should never pray in public with different words than when we pray privately. We should never let peer pressure change our vocabulary for the moment in order to impress other people. Even in public, we are still talking to our best friend.
Beware, we might not want to talk in public about Aunt Hortense and her medical issue that she told us to keep to ourselves. We might need to filter our public prayer, just not change how we pray for the benefit of others.
When I first read this devotion, I thought of the memorized prayers of some denominations. Do those have any meaning after thousands of repetitions? I guess the answer depends on whether the person has a personal relationship with Jesus.
Yet, as I pondered this devotion further, I realized that I already used breath prayers. I just didn’t have a name for it. “God, you are ____.” (Pick any descriptive word relating to God.) “Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you.” “Lord, which way do I turn?” (Not referring to driving navigation, but rather life decisions)
There are still those times when we need the long conversations with God. Breath prayers are more the filler between the lengthy prayer sessions. Filler is necessary to pray all the time as our Scriptures from Psalm 72 and 1 Timothy 5 suggest. In each of those Scripture references, the praying people all day long are in an intense state of needing God’s help. Maybe their breath prayer is the one we all need to say, often.
We all need God’s help, intensely, but do we realize that fact?
Lord, I need You. Help me. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.