Fr. James Martin, S.J.: The importance of posture in prayer
How do you pray? By that I don’t mean what kind of prayer do you do, but how do you pray physically? Do you kneel? Sit? Lie down? That’s something that’s often overlooked by spiritual writers but posture in prayer is very important. Of course, plenty of people pay while they’re walking or running, but let’s talk about those of us who pray by being still.
One of the most helpful aids to prayer is finding a stance that is physically comfortable. Now, of course it can’t be perfect. There will always be something nagging at you physically—you might be sick with a sore throat or the flu, or have pulled a muscle in your back, or even have a long-term physical ailment that hurts you. So there is no position that is 100% comfortable, and God can be with you in your discomfort. But you can at least try to be as comfortable as possible.
It also helps to have a posture that reminds you that you’re in God’s presence. For example, I like to sit while I pray, but sometimes I tend to slouch, and when I do I remind myself that if God were in the room with me, I’d sit up straight. And God is indeed in the room. At the same time, try to find a way that isn’t too comfortable. A young Jesuit once told me that he was having a hard time doing his Daily Examen at night, because he kept falling asleep. So I asked him what his nightly routine was. He said, “Well, I finish up my day, get changed into my pajamas and brush my teeth. Then I climb under the covers and start to pray.” I said, “You’re getting under the covers and doing your Daily Examen?” He said yes. “Well, I think you might want to try praying before you actually go to bed.” It was an example of being too comfortable. Overall, try to find a good balance between reverence and comfort. God can encounter you no matter where you are, but part of prayer is making sure you’re in the right frame of mind.