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Playlists and Prayer

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

It happens without warning.  When I am listening to the radio or watching television.  I feel like it happens against my will; as if there are forces at work with the sole purpose of high jacking my attention. All it takes is a couple of musical notes and a few short phrases and my mind is captured. I am distracted in the shower, on the way to work and when I am trying to fall asleep:

“You can’t always get what you want . . . “

“Rollin, rollin, rollin on the river . . . “

“I believe in miracles, where you from, you sexy thing . . .”

Once in my head, it takes very little effort to carry a song with me throughout the day.  It is not always the same song. I have about twenty songs on my mental playlist. Until recently, I assumed my playlist had the same hypnotic effect on everyone. I didn’t realize how personal my list was until I told my friends about my playlist.  Most of my songs are not on their playlists. In fact, it seems many of us have such a list, but no two lists are the same. What captures my attention may not capture yours and vice versa.

What does this have to do with prayer? For many people, constant prayer is much more difficult than keeping company with the lyrics of their favorite band. Why is paying attention to God so difficult? Wouldn’t it be great if being aware of God’s presence was as easy as singing a song?

Is it possible to learn to pray in such a way that being present to God is as natural as singing a song? There is an ancient way of praying that has helped people throughout the centuries. It is called a Breath Prayer.  A Breath Prayer is a very personal prayer between you and God. By using a Breath Prayer you can learn to be aware of God all the time no matter what you are doing.

How can you learn to pray this way?  First, you discover your Breath Prayer.  Then you practice it regularly and soon you are as easily aware of God’s presence as “Well, shake it up, baby, now, (shake it up, baby), Twist and shout. (twist and shout) . . .”

Discovering Your Breath Prayer

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.  Close your eyes, and remind yourself that God loves you and that you are in God’s loving presence.  Recall a passage of scripture that puts you in a prayerful frame of mind. Consider “The Lord is my Shepherd” or “Be still and know that I am God.”
  2. With your eyes closed, imagine God is calling you by name.  Hear God asking you by name, “What do you want?”
  3. Answer God with what directly comes from your heart.  Your answer might be a single word, such as peace or love or forgiveness.  It could also be a phrase or brief sentence, such as “I want to feel your forgiveness” or “I want to know your love.” Your response to God’s question “What do you want?” becomes the heart of your prayer.
  4. Choose your favorite name or image for God. Choices commonly made include God, Jesus, Creator, Teacher, Lord, Spirit, Father, Shepherd.
  5. Combine your name for God with your answer to God’s question “What do you want?” You then have your prayer. For example: 

What I want

Name I Call God Possible Prayer


God Let me know your peace, O God.


Jesus Jesus, let me feel your love.


Shepherd My Shepherd, let me rest in you.

When your prayer seems right for you, silently repeat it throughout the day. Praying the prayer all the time takes practice and persistence. It will begin like any habit; you will need to be intentional about saying it when your brush your teeth, drive in the car, and are waiting in line at the store.

Eventually, like a song you can’t get out of your head, you will begin to pray without ceasing and you will aware of God throughout your day.

– Steve Nickles, M.Div

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