And after He dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.

Matthew 14:23


There is a lot of anxiety and stress in the world. Just about everyone feels it on a daily basis. I’ve asked different ages and demographics about what their biggest challenge is and the most popular answer is “struggle with anxiety and stress.” For the next several weeks, I’m going to focus the Prayer Team around the subjects of “Breathe”, “Purpose” and “Serve” because I believe that all three concepts can help to lessen anxiety. We begin with “breathe.”


The thing we do most often in our lives is breathe. We do it many times per minute. We do it intentionally, and most of the time we do it subconsciously. While I am writing at this moment and focused on writing, my heart continues to beat, my chest rises and falls and air comes in and out of my nose. I can hold my breath, but not for long. Eventually my body is going to start breathing, whether I want it to or not. I get tired every day and eventually fall asleep, but the breathing continues unabated, even when I am sleeping.


The thing we do most is breathe. However, when we are traumatized in some way, the first thing we struggle to do is breathe. Our “fight or flight” response seems to affect our breath first. That’s why when someone is confronted with some trauma, someone usually says “take a deep breath,” in an effort to stabilize breathing and keep the heart calm.


It is important to take time to breathe often. “What?!” you might be thinking. What do you mean take time to breathe? We breathe whether we make time or not! That is true. However, we can maintain a calmer demeanor when we intentionally breathe.


Find a quiet place. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s like when you go to the doctor and they are trying to listen to your heart and lungs and they ask you to breathe very intentionally. This works the same way. Breathe slowly in. Breathe slowly out. Think of a pleasant thought or a beautiful place in your mind. Do this for five minutes. You will see that it relaxes you.


We can use these moments of breathing to grow in our faith. How is that? With a short addition of prayer to your quiet breathing. For those who aren’t familiar with the “Jesus Prayer,” it goes like this: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. One great way to pray this prayer is to do it in time to your breathing.


Lord, Jesus Christ (while you inhale)

Son of God (while you exhale)

Have mercy (while you inhale)

On me a sinner (while you exhale)


This can work with other short phrases of prayer. Try taking a few breaths and pray one of these phrases with each breath. In other words, pick one of the following phrases and offer it once with each breath but do it several times.


Lord, help me.

Lord, be with me.

I love You Jesus.

Lord, hold me.


Imagine if you went into a meeting today and you were worried about it. Pausing for a few breaths and praying Lord, be with me would be a great way to relax your heart and your mind.


Many of you have some difficult things to do today. At least one person reading this message today will be going to a funeral for a loved one today. Breathe. Take deep breaths. And bring God into those deep breaths.


The Scripture verse for today, from Matthew 14:23, reminds us that Jesus took time to pray, and presumably took time to breathe. After dismissing the crowds, He went by Himself on a mount to pray. What immediately precedes this verse is the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. We know that this miracle took place at the end of a long day of preaching and teaching. Jesus was undoubtedly tired. He didn’t head to the local tavern for a drink, He didn’t take in an athletic contest, and had they had TV’s back then, He wouldn’t have run for the remote control. Rather, He took time to reset his bearings by praying and breathing. There is nothing wrong with having a drink, taking in a sports game or watching. Many of us are doing these things and still feeling very anxious. Whatever your anxiety level, we can all benefit from a few deep breaths, and we can all calm anxiety at least somewhat by bringing the name of the Lord into those breaths.


Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Lord, help me.

Lord, be with me.

I love You Jesus.

Lord, hold me.

Lord, thank You for the gift of breath. It is the thing we do most and so often I take it for granted. Give me the space to breathe today, and the thought to slow down and breathe. May Your name be in my breaths today. May my breaths glorify You. Amen.


Take some deep breaths today. Include the Lord in them.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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