Context: Last Saturday I had breakfast in bed to celebrate a whole day ahead with no planned medical appointments. Whilst saying the morning Office I took my meds slowly, one at a time, in order to keep my concentration as high as I possible. After the Office, I found myself whispering this brutally honest little prayer:
You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength (Mark 12:30; NLT).
I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NIV).
I love you, Lord;
I love you,
But I don’t expect your love, Lord,
Because I don’t expect this, Lord,
I love you, Lord,
And I believe
That you accept
That’s all I ask, Lord God,
For it’s enough.
We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19; TIB).
Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough (2 Corinthians 8:15; NLT).
Context: This blog had a rather unusual start in life. It began to arrive just as I was about to leave my hotel room early yesterday morning to walk the short distance to London City Airport. The words I was given were clearly an ending, so I hastily jotted them down, then set off, thinking no more about them.
At the airport, I had a very welcome breakfast, went to my gate and boarded the plane. Just as we were taking off, the beginning of this blog arrived, so I had to repeat it in my mind until the plane levelled out and I could reach for my iPad. By the time we landed, the first draft was largely complete. This is what I received:
You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).
I often find it impossible to say “Amen” to other people’s prayers, to join in with printed responses during services, and to sing congregational hymns. This is because:
I don’t agree with what is being asked for, or said.
A prayer or hymn doesn’t speak for me, or doesn’t express what is in my heart at the time.
The language used is formal, grand or flowery: that’s not how I talk to God.
The prayers or hymns are too long for me to take in, or to make my own.
The person leading the prayers speaks so quietly that I can’t tell what they are saying.
The prayers are said so impersonally, or so quickly, that they seem devoid of meaning.
Reflecting on these reservations helped me to draw up a list of personal aims:
To pray because I want to, rather than because I think I ought to.
To pray for those who come to mind, rather than working my way through a list of those I feel I should include.
Not saying “Amen” to prayers I don’t agree with, instead quietly sharing with God that I don’t concur.
Not joining in with hymns whose words don’t speak for me.
Not ignoring, overriding, hiding, or suppressing my hurts, irritations, disappointments, anger, judgements, fears etc. Rather, I aim to be honest about them, facing their truth squarely with God, who knows exactly what is in my mind and heart.
Not pretending to feel other than how I actually feel. Rather, I aim pray about how I’m really feeling, and what I’m really thinking.
Not saying what I think God wants to hear.
Facing up to things I’ve got wrong and asking God to help me put them right.
Avoiding grand or flowery language, instead praying simply and honestly, like a child.
Not worrying about how short or long my prayers are, as long as they’re honest, genuine and heartfelt.
In conclusion, I aim to follow my golden rule:
Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1; NLT).
As for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts (Jeremiah 12:3; NLT).
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord (Psalm 139:4; NLT).
Today’s reading: Matthew 6:7-13; NLT
When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles. They think God will hear them if they use a lot of words. Don’t imitate them. Your God knows what you need before you ask it.
This is how you are to pray: ‘Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: give us today the bread of Tomorrow.
And forgive us our debts, as we hereby forgive those who are indebted to us. Don’t put us to the test, but free us from evil.’
NB: I can say “Amen” to this without reservation, apart from disliking some of the punctuation!
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion
(Ephesians 6:18; NLT).
1. Don’t force your prayers –
Just be yourself,
And let the Spirit speak.
God loves honesty,
And doesn’t want technique.
2. Pour out your heart
To God within –
Use many words, or few.
He loves honesty,
So only say what’s true.
3. God knows what’s in
Your mind and heart;
He knows what’s in your soul.
He listens, cares,
And weeps upon your wounds
To make you whole.
He bruises, but he binds up; he wounds, but his hands make whole
(Job 5:18; NKJV).
1. The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God (Romans 8:26-7; TIB).
You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).
2. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).
You are the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV).
Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).
Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).
When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8; GNT).
Let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2; NLT).
Be silent before the Lord (Zechariah 2:13; NLT).
3. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely (Psalm 139:4; NIV).
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; NIV).
If you say, “Look here, we didn’t know about this,” doesn’t God, who examines motives, discern it? Doesn’t the one who guards your soul know about it? (Proverbs 24:12; ISV).
This is the confidence that we have in him: if we ask for anything according to his will, he listens to us (1 John 5:14; ISV).
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7; NLT).
In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).
I want people everywhere to lift their hands up reverently in prayer. (1 Timothy 2:8; TIB).
Jewish people have a long-established tradition of praying in the orans position. This means standing with the elbows close to the body, while the lower arms and hands are uplifted and extended. The practice is often mentioned in the Old Testament (eg Psalm 134:2; NLT, and Psalm 28:2; NLT). Early Christians were encouraged to pray in this posture by the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 2:8; TIB), but over recent centuries its use has declined in some denominations.
Orans means “one who is praying or pleading” (Wikipedia). For those who are in good health, standing to pray with uplifted arms may present no problems. However, for those who are sick, disabled or in pain, perhaps with limited balance, strength, or energy, this posture may seem too challenging to try. Fortunately, though, it can be adapted to suit individual needs.
This is important, as whatever our state of health, the orans posture offers a wonderful way of communicating with God. Furthermore, it can be particularly helpful when we are distressed, or afraid, or when prayer seems impossible.
The basic, free-standing orans posture
🌺 In the basic, free-standing orans position the feet are planted solidly on the floor, slightly apart. The elbows are tucked in at the waist, touching the sides of the body. The lower arms are extended forwards, upwards and outwards. The hands are gently cupped, facing each other, with the palms turned slightly upwards (see photo at the top of this article).
The significance of the orans posture for me
When I stand in the orans posture, I see my feet as being grounded on the base of a large triangle. I visualise the sloping sides of the triangle as running through the centre of each palm, just as the nails pierce Christ’s hands in many depictions of his crucifixion. The sides of the triangle continue upwards, meeting above my head. This creates a sacred space, whose apex is in heaven.
The orans position helps me to be more fully aware of God’s constant, loving and liberating presence within and around me, no matter how, or where, I am. It fosters a sense of co-creating, entering, and sharing a sacred space with God. Within this space, I consciously embrace my essential oneness and communion with our Lord (see Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT, and 2 Samuel 22:20; NIV).
Praying in this posture also reflects and expresses my intention to be completely open with myself and with God, who desires our honesty at all times. It facilitates a sense of sharing everything with God, who suffers with me, and of giving, as well as receiving (see Psalm 51:6; NLT, and Isaiah 63:9; NLT).
Adapting the orans position
As mentioned above, the orans posture can readily be adapted to fit individual needs. So, I would like to offer some examples of how it can be used whilst standing, leaning, kneeling, sitting and lying. There are several options for some body positions, each offering a little more support than the one before.
🌺 Stand with your back to a wall. Position your heels a few inches away from the wall, with feet slightly apart. Lean back very slightly, allowing your shoulders to rest against the wall. Keep your elbows by your sides and raise your hands as for the free-standing position described above.
🌺 Stand facing a wall, with feet slightly apart, and a few inches away from it. Place your lower arms against the wall, leaning on them, so the wall helps to support your weight. Keep your back straight. You can also rest your forehead against the wall, if you wish. Bend your wrists slightly backward, so you can hold your hands away from the wall, cupping them as shown in the photo below.
🌺 Lean your thighs or hips against a solid support, such as the edge of a dining table or the front of small chest of drawers. Position your arms and hands and arms as for the free-standing position.
🌺 Stand two or three inches away from a solid chest-high piece of furniture, such as a tall-boy. Lean your abdomen and chest against it, then lift your arms and hands into the oransposture, as in the photo below.
🌺 Kneel, facing a hard chair, or bed. Keeping your elbows by your sides, rest the sides of your extended hands on the support in front of you. If the surface is too low, use a pillow to raise it to a comfortable level.
🌺 Sit up reasonably straight on a hard chair. Keep your elbows by your sides and feet flat on the floor, slightly apart. Rest your lower arms on your thighs, cupping and tilting your hands, as before. Place a pillow across your lap if you need to raise the level.
🌺 Sit back comfortably in an armchair, whilst adopting the orans position with your arms and hands. Use a pillow on your lap if you need to raise the level, as below.
🌺 Sit with your legs raised, using a footstool, or reclining chair. Rest your arms and hands on your thighs, or on a pillow, as before.
NB Sitting in the orans posture is particularly useful if you want to pray discreetly during a meeting, conversation or argument, whilst travelling, watching TV, relaxing etc. If you are sitting at a table, you can keep your arms and hands below it in the core position. If there is no table, place a jumper, coat, or newspaper on your lap, then position your lower arms and hands underneath it, so you can pray privately, even though you are with others.
🌺 Lay on the floor or in bed, with a pillow supporting your head and neck, feet slightly apart, and arms by your sides. With relaxed shoulders, rest your elbows on the floor or mattress, whilst placing the sides of your hands on the tops of your thighs. The hands are tilted slightly upwards and cupped, as always. You can keep them above or below a blanket, or the bedclothes.
🌺 Lay on the floor or in bed, as above, but this time place your elbows a few inches away from your sides. If you are in bed, your upper arms and elbows cab rest on the bedclothes. Bend your elbows, raising your lower arms until the backs of your cupped hands rest on the pillow beside your head, as illustrated below.
🌺 Lay flat on the floor or in bed. This time, keep your arms relaxed by your sides. Let the backs of your hands rest on the mattress, a few inches away from your thighs. Keep the hands cupped, with palms tilted gently upwards and towards each other, just as before.
Be creative when you pray in the orans position:
Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset (Exodus 17:12; NLT).
Lean or sit on whatever solid surface is nearby, for support. Prop up your arms, wrists, or hands with pillows. If you get cold whilst standing, leaning, or kneeling, wrap a blanket loosely around you, tucked in at the waist. Use a blanket or duvet to keep warm whilst sitting or lying down.
You can look gently upwards, or straight ahead, or bow your head, just as you wish. Your eyes can be open or closed. If you wish to, make the sign of the cross before you begin, and kiss your fingers, blessed through prayer, when you end. Keep on praying, even as you move out of the orans position to continue with your daily activities. Allow yourself to improvise, doing whatever feels most helpful, appropriate and expressive at the time.
Whether your prayers last for moments, minutes or hours, make sure you are as relaxed and comfortable as possible. It’s fine to change from one body position to another, just as you feel the need. Don’t push yourself to maintain the posture for longer than you want to, or are able to manage comfortably. The most important thing is to experience the sense of space, peace, love, safety, openness, freedom and communion with God offered by this posture.
Lastly, you can adapt the oransattitude to your personal needs. For example, when praying at my shrine, which is on a tall chest of drawers, I lean against the chest, positioning my hands just above some of the small items at the front of the shrine. In this way, I become part of the shrine, which I find particularly helpful.
Similarly, when walking outdoors with my rollator, I can pray whilst holding the handles with cupped hands, keeping my fingers, slightly curled, resting safely on the brake levers. Walking with my hands in the orans position in my pockets would have a similar effect. Alone, in the house I can walk about freely with my hands in position as I go, even whilst carrying light objects.
When saying grace, I can rest my lower arms on the edge of the table, lifting my wrists and hands into the orans position to bless God’s gifts.
Even if I only have one hand free, I can still pray mindfully, for example, whilst cleaning my teeth. There are countless personal variations like this to discover, develop, enjoy and value for everyone who chooses to incorporate the orans posture into a life of constant prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).
Praying in the orans posture
Whenever you use the orans posture, you might like to ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray (Romans 8:26-7; TIB). Then, with open hands, mind, heart and soul, you can share yourself completely with God as you pour out your prayers (Psalm 62:8; TIB). You can intercede for others, for the world, or for yourself. You can pray aloud, or in your head, or without using words at all, just as the Spirit moves you. Wordless prayer in the orans posture may be particularly helpful for those who want to pray, but find it impossible.
I very much hope that some of you will try praying in the orans posture, and that you will find it as liberating, comforting, helpful and fulfilling as I do. Whether our prayers are short or long, it offers a very effective way of consciously choosing to engage with God.
My warmest thanks to Wikipedia for introducing me to the standing orans prayer posture.
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show
that they should always pray and never give up
(Luke 18:1; NLT).
1. Whatever God gives,
And however you are,
Pray at once,
And pray honestly –
Just as Christ bid.
2. Whatever God takes And however you feel, Pray at once,
And pray honestly –
Just as Christ did.
If it is possible, let this cup of suffering
be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done,
not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge
(Psalm 62:8; NLT).
1. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB).
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).
Let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately (Psalm 32:6; CSB).
You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).
If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).
2. Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:36-8; NLT).
My health has been deteriorating for several years, but I have never had an explanation for this. However, last Thursday I was given a diagnosis of Autonomic Neuropathy (AN).
AN is an incurable degenerative disorder, in which the brain loses the ability to regulate processes that normally happen automatically. It affects the functioning of multiple body systems, including, for example, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature control, bladder, digestion, eyesight, balance and energy.
There are several sub-types of AN. Some are more severe than others. Some progress more quickly than others. A battery of tests over the next few weeks and months should eventually indicate which type I have, how quickly I can expect to deteriorate, and my anticipated life-expectancy.
About a year ago, as my health deteriorated, I reached a point where I could no longer go to church. Since then, I have hoped in vain that some of the people there who I thought of as friends might notice my absence and make contact with me. However, only one member of my local congregation has stayed in touch.
Over the last few days I have realised how deeply I lack sources of spiritual nourishment with like-minded people. This has made me see that I need to stop hoping for contact, understanding and support from church, where there is so little available. Instead, I want to accept, share, and develop, relationships that are available to me, for example, with spiritually-minded friends online.
So, it’s time for me to start afresh, to change, and to focus much more on some reciprocal relationships. This feels like a very positive realisation. Indeed, it’s already leading me to explore a much more universal faith than is possible within the narrow confines of a single, rule-based denomination.
With this new-found approach, I can start putting my very limited energy into seeking and finding God in everyone and everything, a prospect which fills me with joy. God really does work in mysterious ways, bringing good even out of situations that can appear wholly negative.
Accordingly, yesterday, as I prepared my blog for posting, I found great pleasure in illustrating it with a wonderful photo of a woman priest joyfully celebrating communion. This simply doesn’t happen in my denomination, where all women are automatically excluded from the priesthood, simply because of their gender.
Using the photo of the woman priest made me recognise that I could also include photos of older women and disabled people amongst my website headers, so I spent a very happy hour or two on this task. Until today, my thinking had always been so blinkered that it had never occurred to me to do this.
Right now, I feel my diagnosis of Autonomic Neuropathy is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has made me realise thatI’ve only got one life here, and that it might be a lot shorter, more limited, and more unpleasant than I had previously imagined. So, as my heath and mobility deteriorate, I want to make the most of whatever freedom and independence I have, at each stage of this disorder.
However, I’m not thinking of the conventional “bucket list” of places I want to go to, or things I want to do before I die. Rather, I’m already experiencing a deep, joyful sense of inner freedom to be myself. This gives me space and permission to think what I think, believe what I believe, feel how I feel, and be how I am. I am also working on my outward freedom, by speaking the truth in love, and taking pleasure in doing what I still can, however limited this may be.
I’m sharing all this with you because as I deteriorate, I will probably need to change my approach to blogging. This might mean expending less energy on formal, disciplined poetic structures, instead describing whatever spiritual insights God gives me in simpler, more direct prose.
Meanwhile, I’m feeling optimistic, the future looks exciting, and I will continue to post here each day for as long as I can.
✝️ My greetings to every follower and visitor to this website. I appreciate every one of you, and pray for you all each day.
With love and blessings, from Ruth xxxx
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).
No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave (Psalm 89:48; NLT).
Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).
Truly, O God of Israel, our Saviour, you work in mysterious ways (Isaiah 45:15; NIV).
We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28; GNT).
Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognised him (Luke 24:31; NLT).
God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them(Genesis 1:27; NLT).
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NIV).
The Almighty … blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb (Genesis 49:5; NIV).
“As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother” (Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 59, Julian of Norwich).
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NLT).
If the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:36; NLT).
When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go (John 21:18; NLT).
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me(Psalm 139:1; NLT).
We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:24; NIV).
You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10; NIV).
Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts (Psalm 90:12; CSB).
Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30; NLT).
Don’t let prayer become a burden;
Don’t let prayer become a chore:
Listen to the Spirit’s prompting – Silence is your inner core.
Take it slowly. Take it gently.
Keep it honest; not too long:
One with God in deep communion –
Though you’re weak, your prayers are strong.
Revel in your intercessions;
Pray for those who cross your path,
Begging God to bless and heal them –
Don’t let this become a “task”.
For yourself, ask God to help you
Face, and bear, his perfect will
With humble thanks, and great rejoicing –
Knowing that he loves you, still.
Pray that many unbelievers Meet Christ Jesus, hear his call,
Repent, and turn to him each day –
Because the Father loves us all.
God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
(John 3:16; NLT).