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.

Looking at others

No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven
(John 3:27; NLT).

Father,
Fill us with your truth;
Flood us all with hope and faith –
Then, Lord, when we look at others,
We will always see Christ’s face.

Father,
Fill us with your love;
Deluge us with grace and peace –
Then, Lord, when we look at others,
All our fear and hate will cease.

Father,
Fill us with your light
Until we shine, just like your Son –
Then, Lord, when we look at others,
We will know that all are one.

You are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NLT).


References 

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18; NIV). 

Before their eyes, Jesus was transfigured – his face becoming as dazzling as the sun and his clothes as radiant as light (Matthew 17:2; TIB).

We will be like him (1 John 3:2; NLT). 

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).

Peace for all (#2 of 3)

There is peace with God through Jesus Christ,
who is Lord of all (Acts 10:36; NLT).

1. Peace for all:
The Lord is here
To set us free
From sin.

2. Light for all:
The Lord is here,
Around us,
And within.

3. Truth for all:
The Lord is here
To set us free
From doubt.

4. Love for all:
The Lord is here,
Within us,
And without.

You are the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV). 

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!
(Genesis 28:16; NLT).

There is …one God and Father, who is over all,
and in all, and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).


References 

1. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14; NLT). 

2. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45; NLT). 

I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12; NLT). 

His glory fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3; CSB). 

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him (Hebrews 10:21-2; NLT). 

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NIV). 

4. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

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

God is peace (#1 of 3)

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

1. God is peace,
And he is here
To set us free
From sin.

2. God is light,
And he is here:
Around us,
And within.

3. God is truth,
And he is here
To set us free
From doubt.

4. God is love,
And he is here:
Within us,
And without.

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

His glory fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3; CSB). 

I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth
(Psalm 116:9; NLT).


References 

1. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14; NLT). 

2. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12; NLT). 

This light within you produces only what is good and right and true (Ephesians 5:9; NLT).

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him (Hebrews 10:21-2; NLT). 

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NIV). 

4. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!(Genesis 28:16; NLT).

There is …one God and Father, who is over all, and in all, and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

God’s presence

I will lie down and sleep peacefully,
for you, Lord,
make me safe and secure
(Psalm 4:8; NET). 

1. I sleep in your presence,
Absorbing your love,
Soothed by your peace, Lord,
And safe in your arms.

2. I wake in your presence,
Suffused by your light,
Hearing your voice, Lord,
And learning your truth.

3. I rise in your presence,
Accepting each loss,
And, trusting your strength, Lord,
I take up my cross.

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).


References 

1. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

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

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 34:15; NLT).

The everlasting Gods is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms (Deuteronomy 33:27; NET).

2. When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

God speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it (Job 33:14; CSB). 

The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught (Luke 10:39; NLT).

3. Rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you (Acts 26:16; NKJV). 

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

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).

The Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:4; KJV).

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy (Psalm 28:7; NLT). 

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall (Psalm 18:29; NLT). 

Home shrines

1. Welcome

Hello! A warm welcome to everyone who visits “Seeking God’s face”, and to all who follow here regularly. I pray for you all each day.

2. Home shrines

This blog brings a very simple message: to suggest that many people could find joy, comfort, support and self-expression through having a home shrine, especially those of us who are sick or disabled, and can no longer go to church.

3. My shrine 

My shrine is in my bedroom, on the chest of drawers. In this room, I can close the door, and pray in private. The shrine has developed slowly over several years, having started with the large wall cross, a few flowers, a candle, and an incense burner. 

Whenever I want to, I make changes to it, removing items that have served their purpose, and introducing others which are particularly significant for me at the time. As my faith becomes increasingly universal, I plan to incorporate relics from other faiths. Nothing is included out of a sense of obligation or pressure.

4. Personal spiritual practices

A home shrine offers an opportunity for the daily expression of personally meaningful spiritual practices. For example, I stoop to kiss the small wooden cross at the front, just as a priest kisses the altar before saying mass. Then I dip my fingers in the small bowl of holy water, blessing myself with the sign of the cross. Sometimes I do this in the Roman Catholic way, sometimes in the Russian Orthodox style, just as I wish. 

Occasionally I light a candle or an incense stick, though I never leave these burning in my absence or whilst I’m asleep, in case of fire.

5. Prayers

My shrine includes two framed prayers which mean a lot to me. Their presence enables me to include them in my daily worship whenever I want to, and reminds me of the words, if I forget them.

The first is about the “little way” of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, whose name I took at confirmation (https://wp.me/p45bCr-acZ), whilst the second is a prayer for world peace (https://wp.me/p45bCr-aCa).

Sometimes I am able to stand in front my shrine to pray for a minute or two. However, when I’m too tired, unwell, cold, or lightheaded to do this, I simply begin praying there, then get into bed to continue whilst lying down. Last thing at night, it’s a pleasure to thank God for all my day has brought, both good and bad. Then I say goodnight, and settle down to sleep.

6. Icons

Whether I’m just passing my shrine, or staying a little longer, I often touch each icon with love before I move on. My room also includes three large wall icons, hanging at just the right height to touch, hold gently with both hands, and kiss, as I whisper my prayers.

7. A very private place 

Some people might scoff at these  practices, judging them to be sentimental, foolish, pointless, or even idolatrous. However, for me the beauty of my home shrine is that it is a very private place where I can be honest with God without any kind of  formality, using my own words, however few or many they may be. It’s also a very good place to “be still and silent” before God, for a few, precious moments. 

8. A safe place….

Furthermore, my shrine gives me a “safe place” to return to in my imagination when I need extra support in the outside world. This grounding effect is enhanced by a holding cross, made in Bethlehem from the prunings of olive trees. When I received it, I blessed it at my shrine, then left it there overnight to absorb the essence of its peace and beauty.

9. …coupled with a holding cross 

During the daytime, I wear this cross around my neck on a long cord, hanging beneath my clothes. When I need it, I discretely retrieve it with the cord. Visualising my shrine whilst holding my cross hidden in the palm of one hand, or clasped between both, is a great source of help, strength and comfort. I do this when I face traumatic events, flashbacks, unpleasant medical treatments, pain, strong emotions, interpersonal conflict, or feared situations. Despite its small size, this little cross powerfully re-connects me to the peace and safety of my shrine. 

At night, I have a similar cross, but on a much shorter cord. Secured around my wrist, it stays in my hand whilst I am asleep. This cross is a tangible, comforting reminder of God’s presence each time I wake up.

10. Final words 

It feels strange to share these very personal, central aspects of my life with you, yet it seems important to do so. The opportunities offered by home shrines for spiritual nourishment, and for direct, free self-expression before God are far too valuable to keep to myself.

May God bless you all each day.
With much love from Ruth xxxxx

 

References

1. Welcome

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT). 

3. My shrine

When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

5. Prayers 

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; 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).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

Be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NLT).

7. A very private place 

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

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

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

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

Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10; NLT).

Be silent before the Lord, all humanity (Zechariah 2:13; NLT).

8. A safe place…

You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress (Psalm 59:16; NLT). 

This I declare about the Lord: he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him (Psalm 91:2; NLT). 

9. …coupled with a holding cross

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18; NLT).

When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

10. Final words

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

Spiritual nourishment

People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God
(Matthew 4:4; NLT). 

Just open your eyes (Psalm 91:8; NLT).

 1. When I open my eyes, Lord,
You show me your light;
When I open my mind,
You teach me your truth.

2. When I open my heart, Lord,
You give me your love;
When I open my soul,
You grant me your peace.

3. May my eyes, and my mind, Lord, 
My heart, and my soul
Stay open to you,
Who, alone, makes me whole.

Jesus Christ makes you whole
(Acts 9:34; KJ2000 Bible).


References 

1. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

2. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

3. Open your eyes (John 4:35; NIV). 

He wounds, but his hands make whole (Job 5:18; NKJV).

You formed me

The Almighty …blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb
(Genesis 49:25; NIV).

1. Lord,
You formed me in the womb,
Laboured, bore me, gave me breath,
Flooded me with brilliant light,
And washed me with your love.

2. Next,
You took me in your arms,
And warmed me with your Spirit’s fire,
Fed me with your perfect truth,
And soothed me with your peace. 

3. Then,
You stood, to carry me
From that day forward, through the years,
Prepared to bear me, and my cross,
To share my joys and tears.

As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother
(Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 59, Julian of Norwich).


References

1. I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; NLT).

You guided my conception and formed me in the womb (Job 10:10; NLT).

The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name (Isaiah 49:1; NLT). 

The Lord …will say, “I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman in labour, I will cry and groan and pant” (Isaiah 42;14; NLT).

The breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NKJV). 

God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

2. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you (Deuteronomy 33:27; NLT).

The Lord your God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; NIV). 

The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Anyone who feeds on me will live because of me (John 6:57; NLT). 

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

3. Praise the Lord; praise God our saviour! For each day he carries us in his arms (Psalm 68:19; NLT).

He lifted them up and carried them through all the years (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; NIV). 

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity (Hebrews 2:14; NIV).