Christianity 201

November 28, 2011

Prayer Postures

This is a section from Mark Batterson’s new book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, releasing this week in hardcover from Zondervan.  Mark serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church, one church with seven locations in Washington, DC.

Physical posture is an important part of prayer.  It’s like a prayer within a prayer.  Posture is to prayer as tone is to communication.  If words are what you say, then posture is how you say it.  There is a reason that Scripture prescribes a wide variety of postures such as kneeling, falling prostrate on one’s face, the laying on of hands and anointing someone’s head with oil.  Physical postures help posture our hearts and minds.

When I extend out my hands in worship, it symbolizes my surrender to God.  Sometimes I’ll raise a clenched fist to celebrate what Christ has accomplished for me on the cross and declare the victory He has won.  We do it after a great play, so why not during a great song?

During the most recent Lenten season, Parker and I got up a half hour earlier than normal to allow a little extra time to read Scripture.  We also decided we would get on our knees when we prayed.  The physical posture of kneeling, coupled with a humble heart, is the most powerful position on earth.  I’m not sure that the kneeling position betters my batting average in prayer, but it gets me in the right stance.  All I know is this: humility honors God and God honors humility.  Why not kneel?  It certainly can’t hurt.

One of my favourite prayer postures I learned from the Quakers.  I lead our congregation in this prayer frequently.  We begin with hands facing down, symbolizing the things we need to let go of.  it involves a precess of confessing our sings, rebuking our fears, and relinquishing control.  Then we turn our hands over so they are facing up in a posture of receptivity.  We actively receive what God wants to give – joy unspeakable, peace that transcends understanding, and unmerited grace.  We received the fruit and gifts of His Spirit with open hands and open hearts.

There is nothing magical about the laying on of hands or bowing the knee or anointing the head with oil, but there is something biblical about it.  There is also something mystical about it.  When we practice these prescribed postures, we are doing what has been done for thousands of years, and part of thinking long is appreciating the timeless traditions that connect us to our spiritual ancestors.

The church I pastor is absolutely orthodox in belief but somewhat unorthodox in practice.  Meeting in movie theaters makes it difficult to have a lot of High Church traditions.  The movie screens are our postmodern stained glass; the smell of popcorn is our incense.  But just because we don’t practice a lot of extrabiblical religious rituals doesn’t mean we devalue biblical tradition.  Just because we believe the church should be the most creative place on the planet doesn’t mean we devalue tradition.  We aren’t religious about religion, the human constructs created over the generations to surround our faith with rituals.  We do, however, hold religiously to the timeless traditions of Scripture.