Movement in Prayer

woman in yoga child's pose - photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

I sometimes want to roll my eyes when reminded that, in times of dryness in prayer, St. Ignatius guides us to double down, expand, and intensify our prayer. (SE 319) In such times, it’s helpful to remember Ignatius’s guidance to “move it!” in prayer.

In the Spiritual Exercises #76, Ignatius talks about the importance of finding the right position for our prayer. We might try kneeling, lying prostrate, lying on our backs, sitting in a chair or on the floor, standing, walking, or pacing. According to David Fleming, SJ’s translation, “the goal is to be at ease, yet attentive, reverent yet relaxed” in prayer. Rather than staying in one place and repeating ourselves every time of prayer, just waiting for God to make a move, we need to do the moving!

For years I resisted the notion of centering prayer, just sitting on the floor, maybe facing a wall. But when I tried it lying prostrate in what yoga practitioners call “child’s pose,” something clicked! My body became a part of the prayer experience.

The beauty of Ignatian spirituality is that it is not “one size fits all.” It is adaptable to the person and the situation. I realized that when I tried different kinds of prayer—whether imagining a scene in the Gospels, lectio divina, singing, centering prayer, or meditation—the experience was completely different if I did each type in a different stance or setting. One type of prayer worked best at my desk or while seated in my easy chair, and another prayer felt more fruitful in my garden or under a tree outside. Holding tactile objects in my hand, like stones, crosses, or mementos, can help to put me in a place of ease and refocus my mind. The permutations of prayer are endless.

Moving our bodies is a signal to our inner spirit of what type of prayer we are going to try today and a reiteration of our commitment not to give up on prayer, but rather to double down on our desire for relationship with God. God is already there waiting for us to find the posture that works for us, so we can be most at ease in our connection with Infinite Love.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

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Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Sometimes I use St.Patrick’s Lorica as a morning stretch and wake prayer:

    ‘Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down’

    It strikes me that if He’s in all these places then it’s logical to move and reach into these different positions in prayer.

    There’s also Julian of Norwich and using the whole body in prayer.

  2. I find the Examen in its short and simple form a great help for prayer when one is overworked, too distracted or even ‘sleepy’. It wakes one up and puts one in touch with reality and the Lord’s presence and working. These days I am preparing to move and the Examen is my best tool for prayer, even finding a Scripture passage to situate me. Thank you St.Ignatius and the Society of Jesus.

  3. Yes, yes, yes! and sometimes moving while listening to Gregorian chant, for example; and even finding a contemplative dance in all this is wonderful and can help break through dryness. With dim lights, if possible!

    Movement that’s expressive of our hearts IS dance.

  4. God’s timing continues to be perfect!!!!
    Here we go!!! Getting in motion right now “for the greater glory of God.”

    ✝️🙏🏼📿

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