Book Review: Body Prayer – The Posture of Intimacy With God (Sep-Dec 2006)

By Matt Dabbs

reviewed by Fred Peatross
September – December, 2005

Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God
by Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill
Published by Waterbrook Press; 2005

The human body’s ability to communicate feelings is as significant as the words we speak. Without thinking, our conversations are sprinkled, supported, and enhanced by the language of our body. Body posture is an important element in expression. But we’re usually unaware when our hands begin to flail and the expressive lines on our face heighten our vocabulary because words and posture are intimately linked to communication. Likewise, when prayer becomes routine, like sleeping and eating, one quickly becomes oblivious to the subtle body postures one naturally assumes in prayer.

Years ago, Randy Harris, Professor at Abilene Christian University, told me he never prayed before a meal. When I asked him why he responded, “I don’t want prayer to become routine.” Automated and rote prayer can atrophy our minds; making us forgetful of the many ways we use our bodies when we pray. Without thinking we congenially disregard the subtle nuances implicit in one’s posture when praying, both privately and publicly. Everyday we close our eyes and fold our hands together as we talk to God in prayer; two physical acts considered customary among Christians living in western society.

In their latest book, Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God, Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill provide some interesting history behind closing our eyes and folding our hands as we talk to and with God in prayer. It’s only one bullet point in a 132-page book but reading this little snippet of history enlightened and sensitized me to the spiritual body posture I’ve assumed for the last three decades—without thinking.

The book is a small, handsome simple brown hard-back bedecked with black and red blocks on the front upper left corner of the cover. Inside each block is a different sketch representing one of the thirty prayers postured in the book.

I found it difficult to label this a book when its primary strength is in its instructively whimsical, poetically thoughtful chapters on bodyprayer. This is more a guide for prayer than a book about prayer.

Each section opens with a short introductory thought, followed by a poetic prayer. An illustration (line drawing) accompanies each bodyprayer demonstrating the prayer position. At the end of each chapter is space for the reader to journal his or her thoughts. There are thirty chapters in the book, each with a specific type prayer for a specific need. I was pleased to see the writers point out that variations on the bodyprayers offered in the book could be adapted to suit the reader’s needs; this was welcomed even encouraged by the writers.

In the back of the book the authors have included an appendix, which I found to be very helpful. Here prayers are grouped according to the type of prayer. The authors grouped the thirty prayers under three topics: meditative, requesting, and prophetic.

This book will find its largest market among emergents. Boomers, whose faith has a logical bent may find Body Prayer inane, seniors who are physically limited will find Body Prayers instructive and helpful but due to their limited exposure to the market most will never come across the book. And then there will be a small, mostly traditional, segment that will see bodyprayers as a threat to their understanding of what prayer should look like.

I finished Body Prayers in one sitting. It’s an easy read but it left me feeling something was lacking about the book. My sense was maybe I felt this way because of my “pygmy-posture-cognizance” in prayer. But as so often happens, further reflection left me longing for a day of conversation with the authors. I’d like to know more about the history behind the postures, their experiences, and most importantly time in prayer with them.

The real value of this book is in those who discover it, assimilate it, and then teach it.New Wineskins

Fred PeatrossFred Peatross lives, works, romances his wife and exudes deep feelings of love, awe, and admiration for his Creator while living in the heart of Appalachia. For over two decades Fred has resided in Huntington, West Virginia where he has been a leader in the traditional church. He has been a deacon, a shepherd, and a pulpit minister. But his greatest love is Missio Dei.

Long before thousands of missionaries poured into the former Soviet Union Fred, in a combined effort with a Christ follower from Alabama planted a church in Dneprodzerhinsk, Ukraine. Today Fred lives as a missionary to America daily praying behind the back of his friends as he journeys and explores life alongside them. [Fred Peatross’ book Missio Dei - In the Crisis of ChristianityMissio Dei: In the Crisis of Christianity, reviewed in New Wineskins]. He blogs at [Abductive Columns].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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