Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Importance of Breath in Prayer

Prayer and invocation are a huge part of my practice. I am much more apt to contact a spirit through meditation and chant than by formal evocation. We can talk another time about why this is but for this discussion I wanted to talk a bit about the how, the procedure, of effective invocation and prayer. The two most integral and important elements of prayer are the breath and visualization. It is breath and breathing that is perhaps so obvious that most people overlook its importance. At least that was how it was for me.

I always exhale during my prayers. The impetus to do so came to me while I was reciting the Astrachios prayer. In that prayer a series of 28 names are invoked to empower the magician. According to the instructions in the True Grimoire it is to be recited several times throughout the day. I would recite it as I'm walking my dog, while I was riding the bus, halfway down a staircase at work, and any time I had a few minutes to devote. Sometimes I couldn't use my full voice and sometimes I would need to be downright silent. In all cases though I use my mouth and my breath and I always exhale.

Over the course of my practice there were times that I would recite the Astrachios prayer with both inhales and exhales. The names recited on inhale had a very different feel to me than the exhales. It was this recognition of the difference that caught my attention and illustrated just how important exhalation is for prayer.

A couple of months ago I heard a lecture by Al Cummings in which he mentioned that, in prayer, the exhalation itself was a kind of offering just as incense might be. An exhale sends out more than air from the lungs. There is moisture and energy which, when combined with prayer, become an integral part of it. It is a physical manifestation of the life force. The exhalation sends the words and intent of the magician out into the universe; it makes the prayer real in a certain sense.

Breath as spiritual power has echoes in the macrocosm. Countless are the myths in which divinity creates and then breathes life into their creation. The word inspire means to be filled with the breath of God and thereby vivified or filled with knowledge. The breath coming out of your mouth and nose right now is directly related to the breath of God. To use the breath consciously in prayer is to participate in the divine creation process.

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