Assume the Position

Put your hands down. You are not under arrest. I am not a police officer and have no training in law enforcement. Perhaps, this wasn’t the best title but it does make my point: prayer is not a position.

Now, if you have been reading along with me, then you know I have said just the opposite. But the spiritual life is a continuing education and recently, I realized that bowing my head in prayer was not the only posture I could take, and it did not reflect my image of God. Why? Because I see God as Parent.

I acknowledge and understand that this image is troubling for many people and rightly so due to trauma, past and ongoing. For me, God as Parent is familial and familiar, accessible and conceivable. God is Parent not because I had the worst parents and I need a do over. God is Parent as an image—not a replacement for my earthly parents.

And it is in keeping with the Christian tradition, with New Testament writings and the New Testament churches that learned about Jesus as elder brother, the firstborn of a new family and our kinsmen redeemer (c.f. Romans 8.29; Hebrews 2:11). God is Parent because we are related, having been “adopted” (Galatians 4:4-7). This is not a God out of touch but within reach, who is aware of my daily affairs, who calls to check up on me, who is joining me at the table with a plate in hand and a story to tell: “Did you hear about what happened?” To which my response is always, “No, God, I am not omnipresent.” It is God in community, the God who helps to clear the table and put away the leftovers, who does the dishes. Yes, God is a good God.

I wouldn’t bow my head down when in this conversation. Instead, I would speak as if divinity is meeting me eye-to-eye like God with us in Jesus Christ. This is how I pray without ceasing because God in Christ is traveling right next to me, getting cut off in traffic the same as me. “Did you see that, Jesus?” This is how we rideshare and Jesus inevitably takes the wheel.

Prayer takes many forms because life takes unexpected turns. The form fits the mood and the movement of my life. Last year, my face was down in the dirt, groveling in a pit of lament. Don’t act surprised. Lamentations is in the Bible, and it was this book that kept me talking to God.

This year, I turn my face upward as if being kissed by the sun when I pray. I pray with my head raised, seemingly basking in the glory of God. I made it. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and I can see it now.

I assume a position of wonder. I connect with God in a holy gaze. I learn that I can see God from many positions and in any position, that God really is wherever I find myself. This seems like good enough reason to change my staunch position on postures of prayer.

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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