Breath and healing prayerFocusing on the breath and using your imagination can become a way of praying for healing, not just for yourself, but also for others. The next exercise is inspired by Chapter 20 of Saint John’s Gospel.

In this text Jesus, after his death by crucifixion, suddenly appeared to his disciples. They were huddled behind closed doors, because they feared that the authorities might do to them what they had done to Jesus. Then the Gospel tells us: “Jesus came and stood among them…. He breathed on them and said to them, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’. (John 20.19, 22.)


You can do this meditation either sitting upright or lying flat on your back. Lying down may help to relax the breath more. Sitting up is best for dealing with distractions. Do not feel that you need to go through all the stages of the meditation at one go. Mix and match the sections in any way that seems right for you.


1. Relax and become aware of the breath as it flows in and out. Remember to always allow yourself to be breathed. Listen to the in-breath and imagine that it is whispering the words “Holy Spirit”. Likewise imagine the out-breath whispering, “give me your healing”. After a few rounds of breath, the complete phrase “Holy Spirit, give me your healing” will begin to become part of you.

2. Imagine Jesus facing you, the breath moving in him to the same tempo as in you. However, the out-breath in Jesus coincides with the in-breath in you. With each in-breath, see and feel the Lord’s breath as a current of warm golden light entering your nostrils and descending into your belly. Imagine that the in-breath is whispering the words “Holy Spirit”. Stay with this movement for as long as you like.

3. Turn your attention to the out‑breath and the words, “give me your healing”. As the breath flows out, imagine the warm golden light slowly spreading throughout your body. With each successive out-breath see the light extend further and further: up to the top of your head ..., out to your finger­tips ..., down to your feet and toes. Imagine that the out-breath is whispering the words, “give me your healing”.

4. Pay particular attention to any part of your body that may be injured or unwell. Be sensitive to any feelings of warmth, of calmness or of energy that you may find occuring in that area or elsewhere in your body.

5. Next, bring to mind any person that you love or care for, and whom you know to be in need of healing at this moment. The prayer carried on the breath now becomes, “Holy Spirit, give N. your healing”. If you wish you might use an alternative word like “love”, “peace” or “joy” in place of “healing”.

6. Picture the person you are praying for. Recall your last meeting with her, and especially her need of healing. Mentally see her in as much detail as possible. Hear her voice and, if appropriate, mentally stretch out your hand and touch her. Again become conscious of the flow of breath and the prayer phrase. Continue to allow yourself to be breathed and to hear that prayer for healing carried on the breath.

7. Picture the person slowly changing as a result of the prayer, gradually improving with each out-breath. Watch her becoming healthy in mind and body, being filled with peace and joy.

8. Broaden the scope of this prayer to include other family members, friends, neighbours or colleagues. You can apply it to groups of people as well as individuals.

This form of prayer leads to compassion. By becoming peaceful within yourself, love for others will tend to flow out without effort. Even if the person being prayed for is one whom you find difficult to love, or who has hurt you deeply, this meditation will help heal that hurt and make it possible to forgive and to love again. You can use this prayer for all kinds of human situations: healing for the sick; help for the poor, refugees, victims of violence; peace and reconciliation between individuals and nations; joy for the sorrowing or depressed; courage for those who are fearful or anxious.