In C.S. Lewis’s classic The Screwtape Letters, an elder demon advising a younger devil talks about the importance of one’s position during prayer.
As Father Robert Barron recounted in a blog this week, “[T]he veteran orders his young charge to encourage his ‘client,’ a budding Christian, to envision prayer as something very ‘interior’ and ‘mystical,’ having little to do with posture or the position of the body. He wants the poor Christian to think that whether he stands, slouches, sits, or kneels is irrelevant to the quality of his communication with God. This, of course, is the Cartesian voice, the belief that our bodies and souls are independent and have little to do with each other.”
Father Barron goes on to highlight the value of prayer made in a kneeling or bowing position, saying, “It is not so much keen feelings of devotion that force us to our knees as kneeling that gives rise to keen feelings of devotion.”
I agree with Father Barron; the physicality of prayer is far from irrelevant.
But I would add that one needs to find the position that best allows her or him to revere God. For me, this is sometimes a kneeling position. Other times, it is sitting cross-legged on my bed, the floor or a mat. Occasionally, it is sitting in a chair facing a window.
Throughout Lent, I have sometimes tried to experiment with my position and the conditions of my exterior environment, and I have done so for the very reasons Father Barron gave; I think it has an impact on the quality of my prayer. But I think prayer is also a dynamic process that shifts from day to day. Though God may not change, we do, and our relationship with God accordingly does, too.
Position may be important in prayer, but that does not necessarily mean one position is the right one.