Sighing as a Form of Prayer

The ultimate sound of surrender

Jonas Ellison


Photo by Annie Spratt

A couple of years ago, my pastor suggested sighing as a form of prayer.

Yes, sighing.
Like, ahhhhhh.

Since then, I’ve totally adopted it. Especially after noticing that I’d been doing it unconsciously for a long time.

You know what I mean… There’s nothing like a good sigh when the soul is heavy, right?

Anyhow, the other day, I was happy to come across this Frederick Buechner quote…

“We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad. The “Ah-h-h-h!” that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way.”

Sighing is a sound of trust. And in my spiritual life, that’s what I’m trying to foster — or, I should say, what God is trying to foster in me.

The sigh is the ultimate sound of trusting the very ground of our being.

Buechner goes on to say that talking to yourself is also a form of prayer. He continues…

Talk to yourself about your own life, about what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do, and about who you are and who you wish you were and who the people you love are and the people you don’t love too. Talk to yourself about what matters most to you, because if you don’t, you may forget what matters most to you.

Even if you don’t believe anybody’s listening, at least you’ll be listening.

Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That’s what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” And the father spoke for all of us when he answered, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14–29).

But what about when God doesn’t seem to listen to your self-talk? Here’s Buechner one more time…

What about when the boy is not healed? When, listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God’s door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that, down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer, the God you call upon will finally come.

So there it is… The invitation. Sighing (and self-talk) as a form of prayer. Give ‘er a shot. I hope it brings some rest to your soul.

I know it did for me.



Jonas Ellison

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