Monday, March 2, 2009

Prostration while Praying

There's a couple things I want to do posts about, but I decided to start with this one.

Alana mentioned to me that when the prayer of St. Ephraim is prayer, the Orthodox make a full prostration after each line, and then again after the entire prayer is finished. I'm not Orthodox, but since I "stole" one of their prayers, I thought I'd try it. Of course, I have no idea whether or not I'm doing it the same way that the Orthodox do (in fact I'm pretty certain I'm not), I just did what felt right.

So, I start standing up, deep breathing, clearing my mind, focusing on the prayer, on coming before God and asking for forgiveness and aid. My eyes are usually closed for this.

Then, a deep bow from the waist, so that I'm at a right angle. Straighten up, and say one line of the prayer, the deep bow again, and then kneel down to the floor. From there I wind up kneeling, face down, arms stretched out in front. Slowly rise, and repeat.

I'll admit, the first time I did it, I felt incredibly silly.

The second time, my concentration was better, I think. The movements flowed for me, and it just felt right to be doing it that way. It's comforting, in some way I can't quite put my finger on, to be face down, praying to God.

On the retreat, everytime we started to pray, I wanted to be kneeling on the floor, so I could curl forward and stretch out as I did at home to pray. It feels better that way, sort of natural.

Weird, yes?


  1. As part of my church history class, on day we went through some prayer rituals that different groups have done through history, and this was one. I felt silly doing all of them, but I have come across prostration quite a few times in the past week. Maybe I should try it again.

    Thank you for posting this, I'm encouraged by your experience with it.

  2. I think the feeling silly thing comes from it being outside the normal worship patterns (for me), and the general self-consciousness everyone has. Am I doing this right? That sort of thing. Once I started to worry less about 'right' and more about the intent of the prayer, and why I was throwing my whole body into it, it stopped feeling silly.

    If you feel like it, I'd say give it another go. At the worst you decide that particular posture isn't for you. At best you find another way to worship with your whole soul, mind and body.

  3. I did it! It is a lot less weird when you are not surrounded by other people and don't have to feel self-conscious. It was kind of neat...will be trying it again. Thanks!

  4. I'm glad you decided to try it again and it went better. Like you said, the awkwardness probably had a lot to do with being in a group.

  5. I'm looking through your archives :)

    This was interesting. I did the Islamic prayer ritual for a couple of months or so, and I found the prostrations the most moving part of it. It feels so primordial and natural and peaceful. Maybe it's just the blood going to the head, who knows!

    I'm sure prostration in prayer is a really ancient thing.

  6. Sarah,

    Poor you. :)

    That's the thing, prostrating does* feel natural. For me, at least, it's a very comforting position. Hah. Probably *is* all the blood rushing around. :)


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