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Assuming The Positions

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

While researching for this project, I discovered that there is a kind of "science" to the different body postions for prayer. And I wondered if these positions would be useful for begging as well. Here's the article. I'll be curious to see what you guys think!

People pray in many physical positions. For instance:
  • laying flat on the floor, face down, with hands stretched out (also known as 'prostrate');
  • standing, hands raised and spread, palms up, looking upward;
  • sitting, head bowed, eyes closed, hands folded (the most common position today);
  • kneeling, head bowed, hands folded;
  • kneeling, head to the ground, hands face down on ground next to head;
  • standing, eyes forward, facing the altar;
  • sitting eyes closed, hands in front, palms up;
  • laying flat on the floor, face up, palms up;
  • slow leisurely walking (or sitting), eyes open, in a place where one can safely pay very little attention to where one is going.

Each of these body positions (and others) can be done for any kind of praying, but each has special meaning for different kinds of prayer. Standing with hands raised is typical of praise, celebrative prayer, and thanks-giving. Kneeling and prostration show humility and recognition of a superior, and thus are especially well-suited to prayers of confession, repentance, or awe. (If you're someone who bows to no one, please consider praying while laying prostrate. In public. With everyone watching. If you're too proud to do that, you're too proud to speak to God.) Slow wandering and lotus-sitting are especially good for meditational prayer and for quieting yourself so you can listen. Standing facing the altar is part of an act of worship with other people who are also worshipping.

Other positions have been used, too; for example, Elijah crouched low to the ground and put his face between his knees. (He must've been a prayer contortionist.) The Bible doesn't mention arm gestures in prayer except the raising of hands; however, starting as early as 800 AD and maybe earlier, some devout Jews have been known to sway while studying the Torah, chanting Psalms, or praying. Christians praying together are known to link hands and raise them together.

These positions can help you pray right, by getting your body into (or, sometimes, out of the way of) your prayers, and as a way to express what the prayer is for. Prayer is done with your whole self, and the body is part of that. But the body positions themselves are unimportant to God, who has seen them all before and has seen liars and fools use them all. They are useful to know for your own benefit. The key is that you are having a living response with God, speaking and listening. Whatever prayer position your body is in, God is still paying attention. And that is ultimately what counts.

A good set of experiential prayers (prayers that involve the body and the physical senses) is found at the Embody UK site. You may laugh over a few of these. A few others are more of a meditation than a prayer. These prayers are not just 'experiential', they're 'experimental', and they're a wonderful example of faithful risk-taking and discovery. These experiences carry forward a true sense of prayer. In several of them, ritual and symbol are well-used for what they are meant to do, something that's usually lost in pop-ritual and by ritualists.

My favorite is listed as "Body Prayer"; it's in the spirit of early Celtic Christian prayers, but acted out with the body and with open hands faced out and placed together in a triangular (Trinity) shape. As the Embody site describes it:

"Stand up with your arms straight out to your side and your palms pointing to the ceiling and pray: "Creator God". Bring your hands together in front of you, forming a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers, and pray: "The three in one". Keeping the triangle shape, move your hands down to touch the ground and pray: "Be in this place". Stand up again and place the triangle over your chest praying, "Be in my heart", and over your forehead praying, "Be in my mind". Take the triangle above your head and pray: "I love you and adore you". Bring your hands down to the starting point and you can start to pray again."

This article was found at Spirit Home.

Well, what do you guys think? It's interesting, isn't it? I'm thinking about trying some of these positions out. If something really resonates, I'll let you know. In the mean time, I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the subject...

As a side note, and for those of you also following our Praying For Prosperity Project, from back in 2006, here is a link to Getting Centered. And yes, I know it's out of order, but this post feels more relevant.


Cindy H said...

Wow, that is interesting! I guess in the back of my brain I knew that there were all these positions for prayer, but never really gave it any thought until today! I have seen some of the more radical ones done in movies, etc. The walking one makes me think of walking the labyrinth at Unity HQ. The kneeling one reminds me a lot of Catholic mass.

I am not sure I agree that the most common one these days is sitting with hands folded. But maybe in today's modern society it's true. When I picture someone on their knees praying, I guess I picture a child kneeling beside their bed with hands in prayer position, but come to think of it, when we pray with Lexi before she goes to bed, we just sit on the bed. Maybe most people who are praying at home aren't on their knees with their palms together, I don't know.

I'm glad the article pointed out that God, or whatever higher power you are praying to, doesn't care what position you are in!

Good luck trying all the positions! I'm afraid with my new knee and my back problems, I am not able to try most of them, at least not without Belger Cartage on call to rescue me, lol!

Shirley Twofeathers said...

Belger Cartage ... too funny Cindy! I've tried a couple of these and I find that it "feels" more ... real when I "assume a position." And by that I mean that it doesn't seem so much like I am simply having a fantasy that someone can hear what I am thinking and will actually respond in a positive and helpful way.

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