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.

Wait quietly

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him
(Psalm 62:5; NLT).

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord
(Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

1. Wait quietly with God,
Who hears your silent prayers.
Talk quietly with God,
Who feels your silent cares.

2. Walk quietly with God,
Who sees your silent fears.
Weep quietly with God,
Who soothes your silent tears.

3. Work quietly with God,
Who knows your silent aim.
Sit quietly with God,
Who shares your silent pain.

4. Plead quietly with God,
Who loves your silent trust.
Dwell quietly with God,
Who forms you out of dust.

5. Grow quietly with God:
Make this your only goal.
Rest quietly with God:
His Spirit is your soul.

I will put my Spirit in you,
and you will live (Ezekiel 37:14; CSB). 

The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7; KJV).


References 

1. 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).

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely (Psalm 139:4; NIV).

2. Walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8; NLT). 

You are the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13; NIV).

When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul (Psalm 94:19; RSV).

3. The Lord knows all human plans (Psalm 94:11; NIV). 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him (Psalm 62:5; NLT). 

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

4. He is my God, and I trust him (Psalm 91:2; NLT).

I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23:6; KJV). 

The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7; KJV). 

5. Learn to know your Creator and become like him (Colossians 3:10; NLT). 

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

You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you (1 John 2:27; NLT).

Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself for God bought you with a high price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; NLT).

He jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us (James 4:5; NIV).

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

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).

A silent smile

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world (Psalm 19:1-4; NLT).

1. A silent smile,
A silent tear,

2. A silent hug,
A silent touch,

3. A silent prayer,
A silent sigh –

4. If full of love,
Can mean so much.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9; NLT).


References

1. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15; NRSV).

2. They sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words (Job 2:13; NLT). 

3. The Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26; AMPB).

Sigh in silence (Ezekiel 24:17; DRB). 

4. Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT).

Just a breath (for K. and R.)

You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

1. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A pause, a stillness, every day;
A moment when I stop to say:
I love you. 

2. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A lull, a silence, every day;
A moment when my thoughts don’t stray:
You love me.

3. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A hush, a darkness, every day;
A moment when I cease to pray:
United. 

4. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A rest, a oneness, every day;
A moment, Father, come what may:
Completeness.

You are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10; BLB).


References 

1. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person (Genesis 2:7; NLT).

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

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT). 

2. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT).

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

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

3. He himself gives to all people life and breath (Acts 17:25; NASB20).

Clouds and thick darkness surround him (Psalm 97:2; NIV).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

4. When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust (Psalm 104:29; NIV).

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

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).

I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:8-9; NLT).

Adoration

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27; NLT). 

1. This is your promised peace, Lord God;
This is the place to be.
I wouldn’t miss out for all the world:
This is the place for me.

2. This is your shrine; your resting-place;
I am your devotee,
Sitting with others in silence, Lord,
Knowing you hear each plea.

3. We are your flesh; your beating heart;
You are the door; the key.
Gazing on you, Lord, we are one
With each other, with all, and with Thee.

🖤

For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:9; NLT).

 


References

1. Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshipping God with fasting and prayer (Luke 2:36-7; NLT)

“Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-9; NLT).

Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings (Psalm 61:4; NLT). 

2. The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him (Habakkuk 2:20; NRSV).

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

I love the Lord, because he hears my voice and my pleas (Psalm 116:1; NASB20).

3. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27; NLT). 

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture (John 10:9; KJV). 

This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close (Revelation 3:7; NLT).

You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life (Deuteronomy 30:20; NLT). 

I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory (Psalm 63:2; NLT). 

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one (John 17:22; NLT).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

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

 


 

Don’t let prayer become a burden


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).


God of silence

O God, do not be silent!
(Psalm 83:1; NLT). 

God of silence, speak to me:
Tell me where I’m going wrong.

God of stillness, shake me up:
Show me how I need to change.

God of exile, pain, and fear:
Draw my heart to you, in need.

God of darkness, light my way:
I will follow where you lead.

✝️

If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God (Isaiah 50:10; NLT).

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).

 


I wait for you

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
(Psalm 37:7; NIV).

I wait for you in stillness, Lord,
Craving your living bread,

And look for you in silence,
Seeking your fountainhead.

I search for you in solitude,
Longing for your embrace,

But find you in my darkness,
For this is your dwelling-place.  

🖤

The Lord has set the sun in the heavens,
but has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.
(1 Kings 8:12; RSV).

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