Prayer and Posture: kneel or stand, eyes open or closed, hands up or down and if up one hand or two, and what about labyrinths?

My earliest memory of a corporate prayer time was at my home church. On Wednesday nights the faithful gathered to pray, and once you graduated from the nursery you were in the prayer meeting with everybody else. The picture is a little fuzzy but I remember my parents kneeling at their pew like all the other grownups…a position I would begin in…but I’d soon slither to the floor. It was much more interesting to look through the tunnel of benches trying to guess who was who by the bottom of their shoes.

Some people make a big deal out of the correct position from which to talk to God. I’ll admit, some postures are more appropriate for certain types of prayer but I don’t think any are more spiritual than the others. I can’t imagine requiring my children to take a particular stance to get my attention. I’m just thrilled they want to have a conversation, share their heart, ask for help, or tell me something that’s on their mind.

When I was in Portland a couple weeks ago our class participated in a half day prayer retreat. We had time to pray while we walked the grounds, a lot of time of silence, time set aside to pray with our formation group, and time to walk in a prayer labyrinth.

Sadly with that last admission some have stopped reading and rushed to put me on the heretics list. So for those of you who are still with me here’s what happened. As I began the Spirit drew my attention to a passage of scripture that had been very important to me when I moved to Flushing 14 years ago.

  • “Then the Lord told me: I will give you my message in the form of a vision. Write it clearly enough to read at a glance. At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting – it will happen! I the Lord, refuse to accept anyone who is proud. Only those who live by faith are acceptable to me.” (Hab. 2:2-4 The Promise Version)

I hadn’t thought about that passage in a long time. I had filed it away as a particular word for a specific time. But as I walked and quoted and prayed I believe God was speaking to me through it. Maybe these verses weren’t just for the waiting, dreaming, and preparing I was doing in 1997. Maybe God wants to reassure me in this season that I have caught a glimpse of His idea for me and I need to pursue it in bold faith. Maybe this passage is directed at the overall trajectory of my life…a life familiar with waiting (which can be a blessing and a curse)…a life lived by faith (which thrills me and frightens me).

I cherish those memories of army crawling under the pews and I don’t think people from my era missed much by not having age appropriate programming. I was learning something down there: if you’re quiet God will reveal Himself to you.

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5 thoughts on “Prayer and Posture: kneel or stand, eyes open or closed, hands up or down and if up one hand or two, and what about labyrinths?

  1. As a practioner of yoga, I have practiced postures and have felt their effects (hands in prayer at heart, or feeling the breath, or palms open on extended arms), and I agree that we honor oiraelvand where we are when we create our own practices and stances.

    In regard to labyrinths, I have had absolutely transformational experiences walking the labyrinth, learning different lessons each time. As a vehicle for moving us through a path in a mindful way.

    Why might someone stop reading when you mention the labyrinth?

    • Thank you for your comments.
      Some would deny that labyrinths were created for people too poor to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and consider them too mystical and not Christian.

  2. Love the comment on not missing out on programming. as a pastor i think i get caught up in that trap thinking we have to hit the perfect tone on all that stuff. I had a similar experience in my childhood where the people in my life poured their lives out to God. It wasnt proper, rehearsed or planned just on our knees talking to our Lord.

  3. I loved your comment about not having our children take a certain stance when they approach us…just being thrilled when they do approach us. Enjoying your journey…keep walking:-)

    • Thanks. Jesus’ analogy of the parent/child relationship in Matt 7 has been one of the most helpful metaphors for me.

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