How Might We Use Our Bodies in Worship? Part 1

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD.

Psalm 134:2

In my reflections from Sunday and Monday, I considered the command in Psalm 134 to "Lift up holy hands in prayer and praise the LORD." I have talked about the freedom we have to lift our hands in worship or not to do so, depending on our cultural context. I do not believe that Scripture requires us to use certain gestures or postures every time we pray or worship.

Yet, I am impressed by how much prayer and worship in Scripture include the use of the body. My natural inclination, combined with my cultural upbringing, inclines me to think of communicating with God as something that happens mainly inside of a person. It's a matter of thoughts and feelings. Physical expression is unnecessary and incidental. Yet, throughout the Bible, prayer and worship happen through bodies. Worshipers not only lift their hands, but also stand, kneel, bow down with faces to the ground, sing, and shout. Biblical worship includes the inner person, but, for the most part, gets expressed physically.

Why would it matter for us to worship with our bodies? The answer, I believe, emerges from a biblical understanding of the person. God did not make us as nonphysical spirits that just happen to have bodies as temporary shells. Rather, God created us as physical beings, as souls that have bodies as an essential element of our being. Our bodies and our spirits are thus deeply interconnected. What we experience on the inside deserves to be expressed in actions. And the actions of our bodies often influence and shape our hearts.

Thus, it makes sense for God to call his people to love him, not just with their inner selves, but also with their strength (Deut 6:5). Jesus reiterated this command when he said that we should love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. How else can we love God with our strength except by using our bodies?

For me, certain physical expressions of worship have helped to open up my heart to the Lord. They have enabled me to worship more completely and with greater integrity. Most of all, I find that kneeling in prayer or worship can both express and enhance my submission to God. When I'm sitting as I pray, I can still give myself sacrificially to the Lord. But when I actually kneel before him, something changes, not just in my posture, but also in my inner being. I am better able to love and worship God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Moreover, when I use my body in worship, I find that I am better prepared to worship God with my body as I live my life out in the world. More on this tomorrow.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you found that certain physical expressions of prayer and worship help you to communicate more completely with God? If so, why do you think these particular expressions are powerful for you?

PRAYER: Gracious God, you have created us as whole people, people with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Thank you for the wonder of your creation. Thank you that all of who we are matters to you.

Help me, dear Lord, to love and worship you completely, with heart, soul, mind, and strength. May I make choices that honor you. May I be passionate for your glory. May I learn to think your thoughts. And may I serve you with my body.

All praise, glory, and honor be to you. Amen.

Images sourced via Creative Commons.