As I was contemplating the topic of peace, I decided to share a spiritual discipline versus writing a typical blog post. When you practice this discipline, you can experience God’s peace in your life. Right now.
A Meditation on Peace
What follows is a guided meditation on Scripture based on the Christian spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer (a.k.a. meditation). In his classic book on spiritual disciplines, A Celebration of Discipline, renowned and well-regarded Christian author, teacher, and former pastor, Richard Foster observes:
One way we can “disengage” from the pressures of the world is with contemplative prayer or Christian meditation. Foster states that words used in Scripture “to convey the idea of meditation” occur more than fifty times—and that’s just in the Old Testament! Foster continues:
As followers of Christ, we don’t practice meditation for the sake of clearing our minds or relaxation (although relaxation may be a happy outcome just the same). Instead, we meditate on Scripture and the Lord’s promises in order to bring about repentance in our lives, so that restoration replaces resistance and rebellion; obedience overrides resentment.
This devotional will walk you through a Scripture-based meditation that centers on Jesus Christ as our source of peace. As you participate in this contemplative prayer, you will focus your thoughts on your relationship with the Lord by coordinating your breathing (inhale/hold/exhale) with a very simple physical action (palms up/palms down). As you exhale, you will confess your sins.
Scriptural meditation and prayer are gifts God gave us to center our attention on Him and experience His peace in the midst of life’s turmoils, no matter where we are physically. In other words, you can meditate anywhere, but a quiet place would be best. You can do this while laying in bed, sitting at the kitchen table, or even holding a baby. You can do this in the waiting room at a hospital, in the break room at work, or in a recliner by the pool.
This is a simple, portable spiritual discipline! For example, King David meditated in the middle of the night while he was laying awake in bed:
Breathing. It’s not something we tend to think about, is it? Since we’ve been inhaling and exhaling our whole lives, the thought of intentional breathing might seem silly. But it’s not. Intentional breathing is a way for us to control our bodies and quiet our minds for the purpose of focusing on the Lord and the truths in His Word.
Box Breathing & Prayer
Box breathing, also known as square breathing or four-square breathing, is a simple yet effective breathing technique that helps promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve focus. It involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the breath again, all for equal counts of time. The pattern of breath resembles the shape of a square or a box, hence the name.
To practice box breathing, follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable sitting position or lie down, ensuring your body is relaxed but your spine is straight.
- Begin by exhaling fully through your mouth, releasing any tension or stale air.
- Inhale gently through your nose to a slow count of four. As you breathe in, focus on filling your abdomen, then your lower chest, and finally your upper chest, allowing your lungs to expand fully.
- Once you’ve completed the inhalation, hold your breath for the same count of four. Keep your body relaxed and your mind focused on the present moment.
- Exhale slowly and steadily through your mouth for another count of four, emptying your lungs completely.
- After exhaling, pause and hold your breath for the final count of four. Maintain stillness and a sense of calm.
- Repeat the cycle by inhaling again for four counts, and continue the pattern for several rounds or until you feel more relaxed and centered.
- As you practice box breathing, try to maintain a steady and even rhythm, keeping your breaths smooth and controlled. It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust the breath counts to a pace that feels comfortable for you. If counting to four feels challenging, you can start with a shorter count and gradually increase it over time.
Box breathing can be done at any time of the day whenever you feel the need to reset, calm your mind, or regain focus. It’s especially useful during stressful situations, before important events, or as part of a regular mindfulness or meditation practice.
Remember, the key to box breathing is to cultivate a relaxed and intentional breathing pattern, allowing it to guide you into a state of balance and tranquility.
Here’s a video that provides both a visual to help you with this exercise as well as gorgeous scenery and beautiful music to enhance your experience.
Palms Up & Palms Down
Whether you’re lying down, sitting, or standing, you can intentionally position the palms of your hands facing up (palms up) to symbolize your willingness to receive the Lord’s gift of peace (or anything from Him, for that matter).
When you purposefully turn your palms face down (palms down), you are symbolizing your desire to let go of anything standing in the way of your relationship with Him. With a simple turning of the hands, you can physically position yourself both to receive peace from the Lord and to let go of distractions and obstacles.
Fellowship thru Contemplative Prayer
Since our theme this month is “peace,” what follows is a meditation on peace—a fruit of the Spirit. We will begin with a “breath prayer”—one word or a short phrase that can be said within one breath. The breath prayer is one way we can stay in touch with the Lord throughout the day. In other words, don’t make the mistake of thinking that prayer is limited to your “quiet time” or time of meditation. You can utter a breath prayer at any time throughout the day to remind yourself not only what you’re giving up, but also what God is doing in your life.
I have written a few “breath prayers” to help you get started (see below), but you don’t have to use my words! As Richard Foster says,
That just rocks my world! God wants fellowship with US!
And, listen, this is far from an exhaustive training on contemplative prayer (a.k.a. Christian meditation). If this is something you find fruitful, then by all means, do additional research. I’ve recommended a few resources for spiritual discipline on my website which you can find on the Resources Page.