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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bodies, Begging, Posture, Praying: Reflections on 1 Kings 17.21


As I’m contemplating the sermon for this Lord’s Day (1 Kings 17.1-24 and Sola Scriptura), there is one thing that strikes me about Elijah stretching himself out on the dead child three times and passionately praying, “O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again” (21). Elijah is not exercising some shamanistic witch-doctor gyrations, but instead he is heaving his body into his begging; he is throwing his posture into his prayer. The question that some may have is, is this biblical and is it Reformed? Let’s listen to two biblical and Reformed scholars separated by hundreds of years, and see what they say:
“And kneeling down. The inward affection is indeed the chiefest thing in prayer; yet the external signs, as kneeling, uncovering of the head, lifting up of the hands, have a double use; the first is, that we exercise all our members to the glory and worship of God; secondly, that by this exercise our sluggishness may be awakened, as it were. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because the children of God do by this means make profession of their godliness, and one of them doth provoke another unto the reverence of God. And, as the lifting up of the hands is a token of boldness and of an earnest desire, so, to testify our humility, we fall down upon our knees” (Calvin, Commentary on Acts 20.36).
“… communicating with God entails much more than putting words together. (…) God pays attention to the inflection of our voices, our expressions, our posture, and other forms of body language” (Richard L. Pratt, Jr., “Pray with Your Eyes Open”, 163).
As those who are created body-and-soul creatures – not sacred spirits incarcerated in the prison-house of the body – whose body and soul are being redeemed by Christ (Philippians 3.20-21), then let us pray and worship God body-and-soul. Let us heave our bodies into our begging, and throw our posture into our praying.

“But kneeling makes us look too much like those other guys!” “Raising our hands in prayer is what that other group does!” So, who cares?!?! They actually may be more correct on this point than all of our prayerful prudishness and creedal crampedness combined. Therefore, let us heave our bodies into our begging, and throw our posture into our praying, especially as those who tout Sola Scriptura.

Mike

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