Monday, February 2, 2009

Practical Prayer Practices - Your Body in Prayer

Many would find it odd to see someone attempt to drive a nail with a golf club. Why? Because we know that a hammer is a far better tool for this work. We instinctively know that when we have the right tool, we should use it for its intended purpose. What seems to be counter intuitive is the idea that our bodies can be an effective tool in building our spiritual life.

Sleep science studies reveal that rhythm is a huge issue with our bodies.  If we want to sleep and feel well we need to rise and retire at the same time every day. Similarly, our bodies can help us develop a prayer rhythm. We can use our bodies to help us pray,  just as we train our bodies to learn sports, or other physical skills, .  Here are a few ways to leverage the God-designed purpose of our bodies in the spiritual life.

Set your physical clock:  The way we do this is through daily repetition.  If we get up at the same time each day to pray, we are training our bodies for instance, that every day at 6:00 AM, we kneel, we concentrate, we pray.  So, even when we don't want to pray, our bodies will nudge us to do so.  This can be of great benefit when our resolve is particularly weak.

Set your physical posture:  One of the many gifts of Catholicism is the physical nature of our faith. We are taught to use our bodies in mass to communicate certain things to God, ourselves, and others.  At the most sacred moments in mass, we kneel.  At other important moments we stand or sit.  All of these postures, if we purposefully understand and use them, help us to concentrate and participate more fully.  We can experience these same benefits in our prayer at home. 

Set your physical environment:  The other physical aspect of our faith that leverages our bodies design falls in the category of "bells and smells."  Bells might be a bit odd at home but we can create smells that assist our souls toward prayer.  Using special scented candles or incense can turn our minds to the holy.  Another physical technique we can use is to create a special place in our home that we use only for prayer.  In St. Matthew chapter six, Jesus talked about having a "closet" to pray in.  If we have a space that we use only for this purpose, entering the physicality of this space can help stir our prayer muscles in to action.

Our bodies are a gift from God, and far more than most realize, they can help us to Him.

Yours in Christ, Dan

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