Coronavirus is placing us under unprecedented stress – not just our health systems and the economy, but many of us personally, too.
Each day brings new concerns for elderly parents, infected friends and neighbours, and maybe even our own livelihoods. (In the space of a few days I lost half my annual income in cancelled speaking engagements; others will face worse. And we haven’t even talked about those who will lose their lives from the virus itself.)
These are testing times. Where will we find the inner resources to cope with the inherent anxieties ahead and rise to consider others?
A Spiritual Practice for You to Try
Yesterday afternoon, feeling overwhelmed at the news I was hearing, I took a moment to do what I often do in times of stress – write in my journal. During that time I remembered a ‘breath prayer’ I wrote last year, based on some words from the apostle Paul.
A breath prayer is a simple, short prayer, said in a single breath. It’s very helpful in times of busyness and stress, as it can be prayed while working or during a short break.
You pray the first line slowly breathing in,
and the second line slowly breathing out.
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The words I based the prayer on (Galatians 5:22-26 in the Bible) are timely, I believe. Because in moments like this, it’s hard to fight fear and be altruistic through willpower alone. We need to be empowered to be virtuous. And so here comes the gift: Paul says that when we ask, God’s Spirit will fill us with the virtues we need: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Think about how valuable each of these qualities is right now.
So here’s the breath prayer I wrote, for you to try or adapt. Find a quiet place, sit still for a moment, then try praying each line quietly under your breath, breathing in for 3 seconds, then out for 3 seconds.
First line – (in: one, two, three)
Second line – (out: four, five, six)
Try praying it one or two times each day, repeating any lines you particularly need more of. Don’t worry about the fact that you have to read it to begin with. In time you’ll memorise it. Forget about the timing too; just breath slowly and focus the words on God.
The Breath Prayer
fill me with your Holy Spirit.
I receive your love,
and release my insecurity
I receive your joy,
and release my unhappiness
I receive your peace,
and release my anxiety
I receive your patience,
and release my impulsiveness
I receive your kindness,
and release my indifference
I receive your goodness,
and release my ungodliness
I receive your faithfulness,
and release my disloyalty
I receive your gentleness,
and release my severity
I receive your self-control,
and release my self-indulgence
Richard Foster once described holiness as “doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.” It’s an intriguing definition that makes sense in times like these. Do we Christians have the discipline and virtue to respond faithfully in this moment? A prayer like this might help us move some steps forward.
Something to Read
A year ago I released a book about life not going as planned, The Making of Us. That feels eerily more relevant now! As we all try to grasp what the Coronavirus means for us and others, I’ve been asking myself if I really believe what I’ve written in that book.
Can closed doors really allow new adventures to begin? Can losing an identity really help us discover who we really are? Can adversity really release our best gifts into the world?
And you know what? I do believe it. Despite all the uncertainty, I do.
This season of self-isolation is a good time to grow through reading and audiobooks. If you’d like to help a freelancer out, please add The Making of Us to your list :). I’ll record a personalised ‘welcome’ video if your small group chooses to read it together too (request that here)!
I hope the book speaks into your life right now.
Stay well, and safe.
This is an abridged version of an article by Sheridan Voysey, first published at his blog, SheridanVoysey.com. Sheridan is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His books include ‘Resilient’, ‘Resurrection Year’, and ‘Unseen Footprints’.