Sculpting Project 12: Posture Matters: Week 2
If posture can affect my hormones and moods and thus behavior, does it also affect my prayers? It seems that it must. Prayer affects posture and posture affects prayer.
Is there a way to use posture to enrich my prayers? This is a new question for me. New to me, but not new to folks who lived in Bible times and throughout Christian history.
The most common posture of the early Church Fathers, also present in the Jewish tradition, was standing. Jesus used it repeatedly in his stories and illustrations. “Whenever you stand and pray…” Mk 11:25. Origen expressed the opinion of many Early Church Fathers when he said, “Nor may anyone doubt that of the countless postures of the body, the posture of hands outstretched and eyes uplifted is to be preferred . . .” for prayer.
Biblical references refer to lifting hands in prayer. “May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee and the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” Ps. 141:2 “ I want men in every place to pray lifting up holy hands . . .” 1 Tim 2:8 In the beginning of the third century Clement of Alexandria writes of prayer “That is why we also raise our head towards the heights and stretch our hands to heaven while reciting the concluding words of the prayer together, and stand on tip-toe, in that way seeking to follow the yearning of the mind upward into the spiritual world.”
Jesus often lifted His eyes in prayer.“and looking up into heaven with a deep sigh . . .” Mark 7:34 “And lifting up His eyes to heaven . . .” John 17:1 Note above that Origen also encouraged uplifted eyes.
In 1 Kings 8:54 we learn about Solomon’s posture during the lengthy temple dedication. “When Solomon had finished praying this entire prayer . . . he arose from before the altar of the Lord from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread toward heaven.” Paul said “. . . I bow my knees before the Father.” when he prayed for Christians from his prison cell. Eph. 3:14
Fall on your face
The leper who came to Jesus “Fell on his face and implored Him” for healing, which Jesus willingly gave. St. Dominic (1170- 1221) used flat on your face for a confession posture.
The sign of the cross
This gesture began in early church times. Using fingers on the forehead, a cross was drawn as a way of ‘sealing’ oneself. Tertullian of the 200’s wrote, “At every step of the way, when going in and going out, when putting on our clothes and shoes, while washing, eating, lighting lamps, going to sleep, while sitting down, and in whatever action we are carrying out, we imprint on our forehead the little sign of the cross.”
I have put almost no thought into the postures I use when I pray. My #1 favorite prayer posture is walking. My #2 is sitting with my hands in my lap. I am inspired to expand my prayer postures so that my body can join or even lead my heart.
Try different postures during prayer this week.
There are many more possible postures for prayer. St. Dominic has a famous list of 9. Here are 6.