“My God and my all.” “Have mercy on us.” “Jesus, I trust in you.” Phrases like these, issued in correspondence with the rising and falling of your breath are part of an ancient and natural method of prayer called aspirations. My dependence on something like this type of prayer began at about age 5, as it probably has for many frightened children…
I wasn’t supposed to be watching. The movie which took my parent’s attention away from me as I struggled to fall asleep was evidently not good for kids. As I crept down the stairs for the third time this night in order to softly beckon my mother’s presence, I paused, crouched behind the chair to see what this attention stealer was all about. A couple was scuba diving in beautifully dark blue water. Bubbles cascaded from their mouths as they communicated about the lady exploring something in a darker section. He motioned upwards but she continued. Suddenly an eel like creature with pale orange skin, flat eyes and needle like fangs sprang from below, pulling the flailing diver into the abyss. I winced, drawing the attention of my surprised parents. Sternly sent to bed once more, I was paralyzed with fear lying there alone. Ball-like and taught, even my toes fiercely dreaded the end of my bed which surly contained the eel, hidden under my covers. With my parents lost in reprimanding mode, God was my only hope. I envisioned a light coming straight from heaven, flooding around me, loving and protecting me. Over and over again, I said the name of Jesus (mentally only, of course because to open my mouth would be to risk too much). His name, first spoken at lightening fast speed, eventually slowed to a soft rhythm. God’s presence was with me. I calmed and slept. Thus began my life long spiritual practice of aspirations.
A decade and a half later, I learned that people through out centuries and cultures intentionally keep vigil through out the day by choosing a phrase to repeat as they breath. Early monks used to aspirate portions of the psalms as quick, powerful prayers. The eastern church as long revered The Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner) as a way of relying on God. These short prayers quickly raise the mind to the heavenly realm, maintain communion with God, all in the mists of good, daily activities. St. Paul said to “pray without ceasing” and this is a step in that direction since breathing is autonomic. For me, the use of breath in prayer creates a reliance on and communion with God as a whole person – mind, body and soul – and makes me aware that “the earth is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Some people are offered an idea for an aspiration by a spiritual director, some make up or choose a phrase which will guide them through particular circumstances, others have one phrase that seems to stick. Here are a few for you to consider. Your kids can come up with some too- 5 year old’s are naturals at this prayer. 🙂 Feel free to leave your own ideas for aspirations in the comments!
Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Jesus, I love You.
Jesus, have mercy.
Jesus, make Your will mine!
Blessed be God!
Heart of Jesus, I put my trust in Thee!
Jesus I trust in You!
Jesus, my God, I love Thee above all things!
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
May the most just, most high, and most adorable will of God be done in all things, praised and magnified forever.
My God and my all.
My Jesus, mercy!
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forevermore.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come!
Savior of the world, have mercy on us.
We adore and praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, have mercy on us.
Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
If today I hear Your voice, may my heart may not be hardened.
From all sin, deliver me, O Lord.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
God, be merciful to me a sinner.
My Jesus, mercy.