What is prayer?

We do not know how to pray as we ought.
(Romans 8:26; NRSV).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Prayer is sharing every thought,
Sensation, feeling, word and deed
With God.

Prayer is sharing all our weakness,
Judgement, sin and selfishness
With God.

Prayer is sharing stillness, silence,
Darkness, need and loneliness
With God.

Prayer is sharing all our joys and sorrows,
Pain, fear, life and death
With God.

Prayer is listening, trusting, loving –
Facing all we undergo
With God.

Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4; KJV).


References 

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

The orans prayer posture


I want people everywhere to lift their hands up reverently in prayer.
(1 Timothy 2:8; TIB).

Introduction

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.

Leaning

🌺 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 orans posture, as in the photo below.

Kneeling

🌺 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.

Sitting

🌺 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.

Laying

🌺 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.

Notes

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 orans attitude 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.

Conclusion

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.


Acknowledgement 

My warmest thanks to Wikipedia for introducing me to the standing orans prayer posture.

Fewer words

Let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2; NLT). 

Fewer words:
More quietness;
Fewer words:
More peace.

Fewer words:
More honesty;
Fewer words:
More tears.

Fewer words:
More listening;
Fewer words:
More joy.

Fewer words:
More confidence;
Fewer words:
More love.

Let love be your highest goal (1 Corinthians 14:1; NLT).


References 

A truly wise person uses few words (Proverbs 17:27; NLT). 

When you pray, don’t babble on …for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8; NLT).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15; NLT).

Faith

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1; NLT).

The Apostles said to the Lord, “Give us faith” (Luke 17:5; WNT). 

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To talk with you both night and day,
To listen, learn, and grow like you,
By following your way.

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To pray for others day and night,
And serve you in all humankind,
By walking in your light.

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To worship you unceasingly,
To praise your name, and seek your face,
By trusting you implicitly.

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8; NIV).

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory (1 Peter 1:21; NLT). 

Love

We know how much God loves us,
and we have put our trust in his love…

Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Lord, your love for me is true;
One in Three, and Three in One:
I have put my trust in you.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
You are God; you speak to all;
Three in One, and One in Three:
May I listen when you call.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Touch me; change me; make me good;
One in Three, and Three in One:
So I always dwell in love.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
May I live as one with Thee;
Three in One, and One in Three:
Then you’ll always live in me.

…God is love, and all who live in love live in God,
and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Celtic Christianity (#1 of 2)

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pray throughout each task you do:
Ask the Lord to strengthen you.
Extol his name both night and day,
And glorify him, come what may.

Care for everyone you meet.
Welcome sickness and defeat.
Adore creation, sing, rejoice,
And listen for his still, small voice.

Grasp how life and death combine:
Play your part in God’s design.
Accept that everything must cease,
And revel in his perfect peace.

Worship; value all he sends.
Thank him when your time here ends,
Then leave your body far behind –
Return to God: bliss unconfined!

Into your hands I commit my spirit (Psalm 31:5; NIV).

The dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it
(Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

Worship (#2 of 2)


Moses pleaded with the Lord,
“O Lord, I’m not very good with words”
(Exodus 4:10; NLT). 

1. How I wish I had the words
To praise the Father I adore,
But I can only whisper:
Lord,
You love me evermore. 

2. How I wish I had the words
To thank the Saviour I revere,
But I can only murmur:
Lord,
You listen; you are here. 

3. How I wish I had the words
To worship God, my heart’s desire,
But I can only stammer:
Lord,
You set my heart on fire.

Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us?
(Luke 24:32; NLT).


References 

1. Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord (Psalm 134:2; NLT).

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

2. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).

The Lord listens (Psalm 69:33; CSB). 

God is with us (2 Chronicles 13:12; NIV). 

You make me glad by being near to me (Psalm 16:11; CEV). 

3. Bow down and worship the Lord (Ezekiel 46:3; NLT).

The Lord your God is a raging fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; GWT).  

I want to follow you


Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd,
“If any of you wants to be my follower,
you must turn from your selfish ways,
take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
(Luke 9:23; NLT).

Lord,
I want to follow you,
Turning away from selfishness –

Help me to bear my cross each day,
To listen, and obey.

Lord,
I want to live like you,
Changing and growing, all the time –

Help me to walk with you each day,
Choosing your narrow way.

Lord,
I want to love like you,
Caring for all who cross my path –

Help me to cherish them each day,
To nurture, serve, and pray.

Lord,
I want to be like you,
Trusting in God, and holding fast –

Then, no matter what life may bring,
I’ll see your face, at last.

🖤

When Christ appears, we shall be like him (1 John 3:2; NIV).

I will see your face (Psalm 17:15; NKJV).


I am seeking


Keep on seeking, and you will find.
(Matthew 7:7; NLT).

Jesus,
I am seeking:
Please let me feel your presence.

Mary,
I am thirsting:
Please let me share your faith.

Spirit,
I am listening:
Please let me hear your whisper.

Father,
I am searching:
Please let me see your face.

🖤

For now we see in a mirror indirectly,
but then we will see face to face.
(1 Corinthians 13:12; NET).


Like you

Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left
(Isaiah 30:21; NLT). 

May I always
Hear your voice,

And see your face
In everyone,

Serve with love
In all I do,

And grow, each day, Lord,
More like you. 

💙

The Lord – who is the Spirit –
makes us more and more like him
as we are changed into his glorious image
(2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT).