The Everyday Body Language of Prayer

The Everyday Body Language of Prayer June 21, 2016


When I was young, I felt guilty about how little I prayed.

And my baptist childhood friends and elders would gently remind me during sunday school, would you ignore your best friend everyday? or communication is what keeps relationships alive, and it must be two-way.

And while some of this is true, of course, we forget an important space in relationships— we forget the nonverbal, the body language, the work of being in the presence of another, sharing space without the pressure to speak anything at all.

I think about that late night at the dinner table, Jesus and his friends sitting together, sipping and eating before everything became quiet.

“That’s my blood, and that’s my flesh,” he said.

And they looked at each other. They uncrossed their legs and sat up from reclining and put their elbows on the table and stared deeply into the faces around them and their language became quiet, consumed by deep truth and unanswered questions.

And in our churches and homes we take that communion bread and wine again in the quiet, and we remember what it means to breathe prayer, to move and let God hear us in our motion.

So that’s where I am these days, postured toward God with the movement of my being, with the work I do and the rest I partake in.

Words now mean something different than they did back then, and so the Mystery of God finds me in experience, in communion, often in the wordless, often in the quiet action.

And when words do come, they are soft and sweet and heard in pure light.


I taught VBS last week, singing and dancing with kindergarteners through fifth graders throughout the morning as they learned about five different ways God cares for them.

And in between sessions I was wondering what they were retaining from it, what they were carrying back home in their hearts.

I was wondering if they were ready to take on the world outside that demolishes its own and terrorizes anyone who is other. 

But at the the end of the week, I was trying to see into their eyes, trying to read their faces to understand if they really understand.

And so, on the fifth day, I sent them home with a sticker on the palm of their hand, and told them to take it as an ebenezer, to find something, big or small, to hold onto.

The ebenezer is the silent prayer, it is the memory and the hope and the body language of knowing God is here with us.

And so they took with them the memory, the sticker, the sight of God however they found it.

I remembered for myself, remembered that I know God right now in packing boxes so that we can move, in trying to love my toddler boys through their tantrums and learning, in stepping into new seasons and new jobs and new adventures in rock climbing and gardening.

And in all of it I can be quiet and move and be, wipe the sweat from my brow after a good day’s work, hug my boys after a fight, tell jokes at the dinner table and sweep the balcony floor clean again.

There was no need for a thorough conversation to take place as the woman wiped her tears and oil from Jesus’ feet with her locks of hair.

And so, there is no need for me to fill the air when I can be still and know, when I can move to the rhythms God gives me, when I can rest in the presence God grants me.

We move and breathe and having our being, don’t we?

And so we move and breathe and live as sure as God lives, as sure as God breathes within us.

So when we pray, we practice the body language given to us at birth, and we speak without speaking, Come, Kingdom, Come. 


Browse Our Archives