Published Monday, April 30, 2018
The Posture of Prayer
The Posture of Prayer:
Lent is a time when we want to turn back to God. Along with that, we want to step up our prayer. Many ask about our posture in prayer or why we pray the way we do. Our Anglican Traditions is steeped with many ancient expressions of faith. It is also important to note that the Anglican Tradition is not the only way to follow Christ, but it is a very reliable way. Despite, being reliable, some jokingly state that our liturgies are a form of spiritual jazzercise with the way we rhythmically sit, stand and kneel. The reality these postures are very important to our tradition. It is true that God will hear our prayer regardless to our body position as what matters is the posture of our heart. Our body positions are to be an outward sign of our inward expression in our tone of prayer. Many feel that kneeling is a “more holy” position than standing or seated. The reality is that all positions in prayer are holy, however they do have different meaning. Some of the postures are as follows:
Sitting: Sitting is the posture of listening and meditation, so the congregation sits for the pre-Gospel readings and may sit after during the offertory. More rarely in the Anglican Tradition is to sit for a period of meditation following Communion before the Closing prayer. Interestingly, sitting in scripture is a position of authority such as Ephesians 1:15-23 and 2:4-7 were Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. A bishop seated in the Bishop’s Chair or the Cathedra, shows his authority. Only a Bishop can sit while preaching as he does so with the authority of his office, signified by his chair. This is also the very reason; the Cathedra is in our church as well as most Anglican Churches as we are under the Bishop’s authority given to him by Christ and His Church.
Standing: To stand in prayer and in liturgy is a sign of respect and honor. Sanding from the earliest of days of the Church represents those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are from above as seen in Colossians 3:1. We also see it as a reminder of being Justified by faith found in Romans 5:1-2. Similarly we stand in Christ’s righteousness as found in Ephesians 6:13-18. When we stand for prayer, we do so in humble gratitude for the marvelous gift of God creating and redeeming us. Our tradition has us standing starting with the processional hymn through the opening prayer, the Psalm, the Holy Gospel, the professing our faith with the Nicene creed, the sign of peace, the start of the Eucharistic Prayer (from the Sursum Corda through the Sanctus) and the recessional hymn. It is a permissible option to stand in place of kneeling, especially in non-penitential services. Another tradition is to stand anytime we sing.
Kneeling: From the early Church, kneeling signifies penance. The awareness of sin casts us to the ground. Interestingly, during the early Church, it was forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during Easter Time for those are times of joy and thanksgiving. Middle Ages kneeling represented a vassal paying homage to a lord. In contemporary times, many Christians kneel to signify adoration. In scripture we see an image of submission to God’s Authority as seen in Philippians 2:9-11 (One day every knee will bow before God, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.) We see King Solomon kneels as a sign of earnest appeal when he asks God to bless the Temple and the people of God (1Kings 8:54.) Elijah also kneels in earnest prayer when he asks the Lord to send rain to end the drought (1Kings 18:41-46). In Psalm 95:6 we see the personal humility: “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”
Other gestures include bowing (both simple and profound), Lying Prostrate, looking up to heaven, raising our hand(s)/arm(s) (Orans Position), leaping for joy, hands folded, arms crossed and the sign of the Cross. Without describing each of these positions, the important reality is that we do speak with our body language, not only in everyday life, but also in the way we talk to God, both alone and in community. When we go through the rhythms of our different postures in Liturgy, let us be mindful that it represents the outpouring expression that is burning in our heart to grow deeper in Christ’s Love.