Body Prayer: Practice

Body prayer is physical activity that promotes spiritual communion with God, sometimes accompanied by verbal communication, but often simply experienced as spending time doing something together with him.

1. Choose an activity that you will dedicate to body prayer. With a little research, you can pursue ancient prayer arts like walking the labyrinth. Others might designate a modern activity, such as shooting hoops or cross-stitching, for body prayer. Perhaps you would prefer to commandeer a daily chore like walking the dog. Or you might want to dip into your brain’s artistic side by doodling abstractly or coloring a book of geometric shapes.

2. Find any equipment you need (the dog’s leash, colored pencils and paper, etc.) and a location where you won’t be disturbed by interested observers. You may load your headset with modern worship songs, recorded Scripture, or classical church music to help you focus. Or you may choose the stillness of silence.

3. Turn off your phone, pager, social networking site, email, etc. Quiet yourself before the Lord and invite him into your prayer time. Ask him to direct and protect your thoughts from foolishness and deception. You may suggest a topic of conversation with him, perhaps a choice you have to make or a tricky relationship or an unhealthy attitude. You may ask him to bring something to mind. Or you may simply decide to be together without a specific agenda.

4. Whatever the activity you choose, the goal is to free your mind from immediate concerns by using a single, repetitive motion to focus your attention. This activity is different than an intercessory prayer walk, where you make requests for the neighborhood as you circle the local buildings, or an artistic expression, which depicts visually or audibly how you feel. Ironically, the purpose of body prayer is to limit yourself to a single activity as a means of stilling yourself to listen to God’s voice (Ps 46:10).

5. When you are ready, turn on your headset and begin. Allow yourself to wander wherever the dog leads or to doodle freeform, for example. Do not obsess with accuracy, precision, or perfect pace. Enjoy the mix of colors, shapes, and movement that you encounter. Trusting the Lord to reveal what he wishes, let your thoughts roam.

6. Set yourself a time limit and faithfully stop when it is up. You can return to the exercise of prayer tomorrow.

7. Immediately, make a note to yourself of any specific patterns or directions your thoughts took. What did you hear in the worship or in the Scripture that bears more attention? What issue from your current circumstances dominated? Do you feel like laughing? Are you sad? If you noticed a new thought or synthesis, if you understood an anxiety, if you felt a conclusion emerge, write that down, too. If nothing happened, ask yourself what nothing felt like. Where did you and the dog end up? What shape did nothing take on your paper?

8. Offer your wandering, your notes, your ideas, your feelings to God. Thank him for his guidance, safe-keeping, and peace. If nothing did happen, offer that nothingness to God, thanking him for the chance to be still in his presence (Ps 23:2–3).

9. It may take some time for you to release yourself from expectations of production or success. Often, people become discouraged because they cannot see immediate purpose or meaning in their wanderings, whether by foot or by hand. Western society and sometimes our personalities have conditioned us to trust only the scientific approach of our left brains. Give yourself permission and several chances to simply delight in the right brain artistic “mess” you and God make because you have made it together. Allow yourself to take walks with God that assert no more agenda than spending time together.

Gregory of Nyssa’s Physical Faith

Sample the Prayer

Practice Together

Consider

Study Further

Body Prayer     (Help to open PDFs.)

3 responses to “Body Prayer: Practice

  1. Pingback: AROFPM: Listening and Body Prayer | Ten Ways to Pray

  2. Pingback: Distractions and Imagination Prayer | Ten Ways to Pray

  3. Pingback: Praying With The Body | The Hubbell Pew

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