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Prayer Positions

Today I want us to think about the importance of the positions we adopt when we pray and include a practice that may prove beneficial.

There are two extreme errors in the context of this topic. One the one hand, we could make the mistake of thinking that our bodily position affects the effectiveness of our prayers; on the other hand, it would be ignorant to suggest that our positions don’t impact our prayers at all. CS Lewis makes some intriguing observations in this regard.

“The body ought to pray as well as the soul.” 

CS Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

Add to that a thought from Screwtape Letters. You have to read Screwtape oppositely as Lewis writes from the perspective of one demon advising another.

“[Humans] can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers…they constantly forget…that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Lewis challenges us to at least consider how the positions we adopt when we pray might impact our approach to prayer. I have found this to be very true [and not just in my prayers but also in my meditation]. My approach to prayer is far more serious and intentional when I’m on my knees and even flat out on my face.  Although I can pray at any point and anywhere, even walking down the street, and God listens just the same, adopting a physical position for prayer makes an impact on my personal focus and attitude.

Let me be clear, the position you take when you pray doesn’t mean God is going to hear you any less or more, but it can have an impact on your own approach to prayer. As such, it has an immense impact on how effective prayer can be as a spiritual discipline.

So, hear this as an encouragement to adopt a bodily position that reflects your motivation for prayer. On your knees is a great start!

Another practical position to practice is one that I have found helpful at times.

Start by sitting in a straight chair – feet flat, shoulders square, back nice and straight.  Begin with your palms facing down and resting on your thighs. With your palms down you use it as an opportunity to confess [think of it as rejecting and dis-owning] all the things that are not good or that you are struggling with in life. 

For example, ‘God, I’ve been really struggling with pride lately.’  But don’t talk in general terms, make it specific, ‘I’ve been proud about how good a cook I am and it is making me critical of everyone else.’ [whatever it is that might be your struggle]. 

After spending time confessing and rejecting, turn your palms up. Leave them resting on your thighs.  Now adopt an attitude of receiving.  For example, ‘God help me to love everyone no matter their failings.’  Begin asking God to change and help especially as it relates to the areas in which you confessed.  

Again, as I just suggested, I don’t think that they way you sit and they way you hold your hands is going to make any difference to the effectiveness of your prayer, but I do think it can make a difference to our approach and the focus of our prayers.  So, using this suggestion can be helpful in using prayer as a spiritual discipline tool.

 

As an added extra here is a picture of John Wesley’s prayer room. He had a small room built just off his bedroom which he devoted to prayer and meditation. He would kneel at this desk and here spend time meeting with God.

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