Day 12: Just Breathe
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
One of my favorite bands is the Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Ros. Their lush symphonic soundscapes create an atmosphere of wonder and mystery and this effect is heightened by the lyrics. They sing some songs in Icelandic but most of their lyrics are sung in a language that they made up. They call it Hopelandic. It's pretty much gibberish, sounds that have no meaning. I actually like that I don't know the meaning of the lyrics. The word-like sounds create something almost transcendent, something "other". The ambiguity leaves space for me to engage with the mystery of the divine in ways that words can't offer.
Sometimes words are not enough.
Some things in life just don't make sense. Our minds can't put words to the ache, our bodies don't know what to do with the pain. There is no word that adequately describes the emotion or intuition that you are feeling. All we can produce in these circumstances of uncertainty and ambiguity is a deep groaning, both body and soul.
Paul, in Romans 8 calls that wordless groaning a prayer.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.--Romans 8:26
I love the tenderness in this passage as the Spirit joins us in our pain and confusion and even takes over for us where language comes to its end. You know there is something to pray, you just know it…but what is it? It's like prayer amnesia. The desperation turns into frustration, which turns into groans. But the Holy Spirit knows and joins you in a mysterious way. So it's not really you praying…well, it is but it's the Spirit of God within you.
This is such a liberating reality for me. It's not necessarily the content of your prayer that is important. Your angst in your struggle to pray is the prayer! The Holy Spirit knows how overwhelmed you are and transforms the current state of your mind and the posture of your body into a prayer.
When there are no words, just breathe.
Set your prayer list to the side for these kinds of instances. Let all the "shoulds" disappear for a bit and realize that life is generated from the moments where a breath is a prayer beyond language.
Let's think of it this way; breathing is the language of the Spirit. In Hebrew the word for Spirit is "ruach"…breath. Now, take the Divine Name, "The Four Letters," Y, H, W, H, and think about the fact that in Jewish tradition you are not to pronounce the name. In fact, you replace it with "Hashem" which means "The Name". I've heard that the old Jewish rabbis said that not only are you not supposed to pronounce the divine name but in fact, it is impossible to pronounce. There are no vowels in The Divine Name. Try saying it without the "a" and the "e". What you get actually sounds like…breathing.
Actually, it's easier to say the name in two breaths. Inhale the Y. Exhale the H. Inhale the W. Exhale the H.
I just taught you how to breathe, say the name of God, and pray…all at the same time (insert smirky gif).
I hope you get my point. Every breath you take speaks the name of the one who gave that breath to you. The Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, is with you, turning every moment of your day into a prayer…and now that you know it, you can join the conversation with a little more intentionality than you might have before. You can bear witness to the mystery of the Divine in every breath, an average of 20,000 times a day.
That's a lot of prayer.
Have you ever let your breath be the prayer? Why would you do that? Maybe it's just to recognize that Romans 8:27 is happening…right now.
And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.--Romans 8:27
Sometimes you need to jettison all your agendas and just be in the presence of God. Bear witness to the Holy Spirit speaking God's name back to God with your body, pleading for you in groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
I confess, I just don’t understand. I don't know what to say. I don't know how to pray. Spirit, plead for me. Help me to just be, to just be present with you, to bear witness to the mystery of the Divine, to just breathe. Amen.