For those in any faith tradition who desire an entryway into deeper awareness in ordinary moments, this book will be helpful. It will be particularly helpful to those in the Christian tradition.
Paintner begins this little book, easily held in the palm of one’s hand, with a wonderful and helpful introduction into the origins and practices of breath prayer as found in various traditions including Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian. Claiming that the roots of breath prayer in her Christian tradition are built from Saint Paul’s invitation to “pray without ceasing,” she relies on the work of the Desert Abbas and Ammas as well as that of Saint Benedict and Celtic spirituality to form the backdrop against which she explains, describes, and encourages breath prayer.
The author encourages her readers to begin saying breath prayers by learning them by heart. The breath prayers she includes in her book are short, and one thought flows clearly from the other, making them easy to memorize as one lives and breathes the words. As one prays a breath prayer, practicing presence is essential, as is practicing stability and gratitude.
Paintner suggests that the novice enter the practice of breath prayer first by “quieting oneself to hear one’s heart,” (27). She reminds the reader that the breathing needs to be natural, not forced. Paying attention to one’s own breathing and fitting the words to it, rather than the other way around, will make the prayer an extension of the one praying. Praying the divine name and praying upon awakening are perfect places to begin the practice of breath prayer.
The book includes many examples of breath prayers that Paintner has written and attached to different tasks within one’s day. From showering, to doing the laundry, to reading the news, to balancing finances, Paintner offers a breath prayer that will bring one into God’s presence while doing the seemingly doldrum tasks. Each task, thus, becomes sacred as the breath prayer is uttered unceasingly.
Paintner moves from breath prayers for daily tasks to breath prayers that sanctify time. These include bedtime, awaking in the middle of the night, gardening, and, of course, Sabbath among many other times during one’s day. Ultimately, she offers breath prayers for blessing the seasons of our lives including rainy days, periods of loss, gazing at the stars, and learning something new. Finally, Paintner offers helpful suggestions on ways to compose one’s own breath prayers.
The breath prayers in this little book are a must-have resource for spiritual directors for use with directees and seekers. The book will also be helpful for anyone who wishes to grow in their own faith or desires to learn to write their own breath prayers.
Breath Prayer: An Ancient Practice for the Everyday Sacred
by Christine Valters Paintner
Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf
Stephanie Bussey-Spencer Patton
has been a spiritual director for almost ten years, a Presbyterian pastor for over thirty-four years, and a teacher throughout her lifetime. Currently serving as pastor of Oakland Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, she received her doctor of ministry and diploma in spiritual direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Francisco, California, USA. She lives and serves as a spiritual director in Memphis.