Breathing through Anxiety

When I was a teacher, the first week of August brought heart pounding anxiety.  I envisioned new initiatives and curriculum, new kids and colleagues, meetings that would entail post-it notes and sharing-out.  My anxiety had a voice — no matter how many classes you take, or books you read, or years under your belt, your deficiencies will be on full display. 

Anxiety strikes in two different forms —  the free-floating type or that which is  triggered by a specific source.


Waiting for a call from the doctor’s office, knowing life could turn on this very dime.

Or glancing at your phone, looking for a text confirming your daughter’s safe arrival.

Or preparing to speak up during a conference call, but your escalating heart beat chokes out your well-rehearsed words.


Whether it’s a new school year, a presentation, a diagnosis, or free-floating anxiety about the What-If’s in your life –  there are certain breath-prayers that can alleviate anxiety.

I say them in the car, in the middle of the night, or when squeezed into a basic economy seat, braced for turbulence, and watching for drones, birds, and nasty looking clouds.

Guideposts offers 10 breath prayers, based on Scripture.  Here are five of them, along with the author’s thoughts.  (Posted in 


1) “Lord, have mercy.”

The Desert Fathers, monastic Christians in Egypt in the third and fourth centuries, often prayed the prayer many know as the “Kyrie Eleison” (Greek for “Lord, have mercy”).


2) “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Based on the words of the boy Samuel (1 Samuel 3:9), I occasionally pray these words to quiet my soul and express my desire to hear from God.


3) “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

I often pray this prayer of affirmation and dependence, from Psalm 121:2, in times of need and desperation. It reminds me that my help does not come from my own strength or the support of others, but from God.


4) “Here I am.”

This is a prayer of presence, and availability, based on the cry of the prophet in Isaiah 6:8.


5) “Show your power.”

I often pray this short prayer (based on Psalm 68:28, among others) to intercede for others, particularly when the need is great and the situation dire.


Sometimes all we can emit is a heartfelt, “Help, Lord!”    Those two words, however, are enough to summon the power that called the world into being.


So, breath deeply and pray.  Then allow God to steady your turbulence and soothe your anxious heart.

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