Today we are seeing the mystical type of contemplative practices that date back to the eastern practices of Buddhists and Hindus, including a type of mantra-style breath prayer that many say can bring us to a higher consciousness to experience God. Rick Warren, as evidenced by his Tweet today about this practice, is a proponent and teacher of breath-prayers to reach this level of consciousness.
The contemplative practice of “practicing the presence” of God dates back to the late 1600s, when Catholic monk Brother Lawrence wrote the book, “The Practice of the Presence of God. Rick Warren was greatly influenced by Brother Lawrence and wrote about him in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, in which he shares six secrets to become God’s friends. One of those is “practicing God’s presence” by being in “constant conversation” with Him.
After quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“pray without ceasing”), Warren asks how a Christian can practice unceasing prayer to which he answers, “One way is to use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated in one breath.” Then after providing ten examples of prayers, short biblical phrases that could work as breath prayers, Warren advises “Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart.” In this context Warren also cites the book of Catholic Monk Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, who advocated experiencing the presence of God in the most menial of circumstances, by praying short conversational prayers throughout the day. The Roman Catholic practice of praying the rosary is also akin to breath prayers.
The popular practice is now encouraged in youth groups in the seeker-emergent churches around the nation and the world.
Other Evangelicals who use breath prayers to practice the presence:
Richard Foster teaches that we can bring Jesus into our presence by the use of the imagination: “You can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by his voice and be touched by his healing power. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; it can be a genuine confrontation., Jesus Christ will actually come to you.”
Nancy Ortberg: “I started slowly to turn my worries into ‘breath prayers to help practice the presence of God.
Beth Moore, in her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things states: "I have picked up on the terminology of Brother Lawrence, who called praying unceasingly practicing God's presence. In fact, practicing God's presence has been my number one goal for the last year."
Here's an excellent teaching video on this topic: