Week One: Praying Our Bodies

Gathered for worship, or beginning prayer time, some people bow, kneel, or make the sign of the cross. How do you mark your entry to prayer?  What other movements might express your feelings, beliefs, your prayer – especially today? Consider how you embody anger, joy, sadness, trust, anxiety, longing, or thanksgiving. Play with praying in your body this week.

Try This

Whatever your prayer, put a shape to your words to embody the intention. For example: We believe and say that Jesus loves us. But it can be hard to feel that love. Try wrapping yourself in a hug. Stay there. Feel the warmth of your hands holding yourself. In this shape, say “Jesus loves me.” How does that feel? What other emotions might you embody in prayerful conversation with God? Punch a pillow. Skip. Sway. Bend low. Reach high. Give praying your body a try.

Instead of putting a shape to words, do the reverse. Let your body move first and then notice what is being communicated. You might put on music and see what comes. The dance could begin with one finger. What develops. How do you feel?

For Reflection

Think about how you bring your body into gathered worship in community. If you’re at home now, what elements of that embodied practice are you missing? How might you bring these elements into your private prayer time at home?

Fasting is one of the most familiar ways we pray with our bodies, especially in Lent. If you’re considering fasting this year, consider how the practice can be about more than simple deprivation. What are you hungering for?  What consumes you? How might your fast help to feed your deepest desire and nourish your soul?

Join Us

Ash Wednesday | We invite you to join our live-streamed Ash Wednesday liturgy from the Monastery Chapel on Wednesday, February 17, 12:30pm. You can access the live feed at ssje.org/chapel or on the Friends of SSJE Facebook page.

Facebook Live | Join Br. Jim Woodrum on Facebook each Thursday at 7:15pm for a live conversation with a special guest. This week, Br. Jim will be in conversation with Charlotte Greeson, from Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary. We hope to see you there!

Embodied Prayer Teaching | Br. Luke Ditewig is offering an online version of his full embodied prayer program, which you can do any time. Learn more >

Click here to download a printable one-page sheet on praying our bodies, which you can place on your fridge, prayer corner, or desk.

8 Comments

  1. Karen Trapp on February 23, 2021 at 20:51

    Thank you for the depth in thought about what we actual do when we are engaged in prayer. So much of our action in prayer is second nature to us. As a lifelong Episcopalian, this effort truly enlarged my sense of the choreography involved in our prayer life. Certainly for me, so much of that has changed with the requirements of this period of our, not so collective, lives. I miss the beauty of our weekly Sunday choreography.

  2. Constance Auchterlonie(Connie) on February 20, 2021 at 14:27

    Br. Jim and Charlotte:

    I have enjoyed this video and the first one as well. We were taught to WAG Or give up Worry, Anger and Guilt and take on LAF Love, Action and Forgiveness during Lent. I think I should work harder at it.

  3. Sally Baynton on February 19, 2021 at 13:15

    I have learned, quite by accident, to take several deep breaths before entering into the presence of God. When I breathe deeply, I lose so much tension and I relax into a total feeling of surrender. Isn’t that what prayer should be; a total, unequivocal surrender of our wills for the total, unequivocal acceptance from our great God!

  4. Bob Novak on February 17, 2021 at 19:24

    Please pray in thanksgiving with me – i started Lent this Ash Wednesday by getting my first covid-19 vaccine shot. Thinking so much about praying with our bodies, I was filled with joy and praise encouraging my body to build the protection it needs to restore my life and enable me to join with others again! I cannot wait to feel safe in going to church, the store, my friends. I also thank God for those who developed this vaccine, administer it and help all who are suffering with the disease. This is a time of hope! I am leaping for joy and praising the Lord. Pax.

  5. Phyllis RP Tessieri on February 16, 2021 at 13:30

    Meaningful to me is the Orthodox way of making the sign of the cross — it involves your whole body from you head, shoulders to the floor. Also my husband and I meditate each morning and before we begin I strike a brass singing bowl. When I strike correctly I literally experience sound waves enveloping my body as I begin. Thank you for the invitation to reflect further on these things.

  6. Rae on February 15, 2021 at 18:54

    I think the idea of praying with your body feels so real. Like your body acts before you do! I’ve noticed when im praying alone at home I find myself covering my face, I’m not sure why, almost like I can’t bear to look upon God. Don’t know what it means but it’s my natural reaction! Thank you for being here.

  7. Rebecca on February 15, 2021 at 18:08

    Praying with the body has taken on new meaning for me since birthing my son. Recovering, nursing, cuddling, not sleeping – these physical expressions of love have me reflecting on the use of our bodies in worship and in the physicality of Christ’s sacrifice as well.

  8. Janice on February 14, 2021 at 06:51

    Prayer with you daily via the SSJE daily devotions is one part of my year round morning devotions and meditations. This Lent series will be an additional blessing. A Daily ritual for me is moving my body through walking outdoors in nature while praying.
    Thank you for your ministry.

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