15 June 2010

A thought that Pastor Gleason shared with me...

...and some further ruminations of my own.

Pastor Gleason pointed out:  It is possible to bend the knee of the body and not bend the knee of the heart; the converse, however, is not true.  The one who refuses (not those who cannot) to bend the knee of the body before the Lord does not bend the knee of the heart.

I've been thinking about that a bit lately.  About how I have a tendency to ignore the very physical prescriptions of our Catechism in teaching.  I mean, there are physical instructions given with morning and evening prayer.  To stand or kneel by your bed, to make the sign of the holy cross.  And with the meals, to come to the table and reverently fold the hands.  It would be utterly wrong to say that those who follow these outward marks of piety and reverence are automatically doing them inwardly; but it would be just as wrong to suggest that they are unimportant and dispensable (a la the WELS version of the Small Catechism).  They discipline our bodies in reverence.  Dr. Luther and the Lutheran Church with him thought that was important.

It particularly hits me when I'm laying in bed at night - for that's when I usually pray the evening prayers.  PRONE IN BED.   The more I think of it, the more my conscience tells me to get out of bed and kneel and make the sign of the cross physically upon myself and speak the words ALOUD.  There's wisdom in the Catechism, if I would just heed it.


Anonymous said...

This is indeed so. After many years of praying with the girls in bed and us standing by or even sitting on their bed, we have recently begun the practice of conducting our evening prayers kneeling around the bed and speaking the prayers out loud as a family. While there is nothing particularly efficacious about posture in and of itself, we have found that reverent posture puts one in reverent mind. I find it similar to architecture -- certainly one can receive the Lord's Gifts in a warehouse if need be, but when intentionally designing a structure, what we design and how we design it confesses something that, in my opinion, helps form and maintain belief. Posture speaks in the same way -- rather than being an empty exercise or show of piety (read: pietism), it teaches and humbles.

-- David Garner

HappyFox said...

Great post! I'm glad we're not the only ones who try to say our evening prayers in bed, often only half-awake. Didn't C.S. Lewis say something about our posture in prayer? (Somewhere in "The Screwtape Letters".) I think his point there was that we're both physical & spiritual beings and so our posture will have an affect on our state of mind.

William Weedon said...

Yes, I think Lewis did. It may have been, though, in Letters to Malcolm. I'm not sure, but I remember him saying it and I agreed with it... in my head!!!

David is definitely headed the right way with everyone kneeling around the bed together.

Anonymous said...

My prayers have always been said in bed. When I was young our bedroom was too cold in winter; Mom dropped us into the featherbed so it would billow around us and then put a heavy quilt on top.
(In summer, there were often honey bees on the floor.)

A retired Pastor & friend said that he prayed for his friends and family till he fell asleep. Then when he was wakeful in the small hours, he continued with his prayers.
I remember that sometimes when I am awake at 4 a.m.
I hope God hears prayer from any time and place, because I am as likely to be behind the wheel imploring assistance to get home in one piece as anywhere else.

William Weedon said...

Ah, Helen! The bees and wall of honey. I remember your telling of it.

Becky said...

I haven't read the Screwtape Letters or Letters to Malcolm, but it's interesting that others were reminded of C.S. Lewis here. After I read Pastor's post, I was reminded of the movie "The Shadowlands," where, in one scene, the character Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) describes his routine before retiring for the evening. He mentions kneeling beside the bed to say his prayers. After reading the comments, I suspect that that wasn't just thrown in for "quaintness." Good!

William Gleason said...

Thank you for posting this, Pastor. And if I may, let me give credit to the man who gave me this wisdom: my late friend and mentor, the Rev. Fr. Rudy Kurz. He put it this way, "If a man will not bend his knee (to the ground), he will not bend his knee in his heart." (And he would agree with you that this does not apply to those who cannot bend their knees.)

I remember how revelatory this was to me when I heard it. Or maybe I should say "un-orthodox" to my ears, for this is not what I grew up with in the Lutheran church.

Your reference to the Catechism is so fitting. Luther talks about fasting and bodily preparations as "fine outward training" for the Sacrament." This falls within the same "physical" prescriptions that you refer to. Yet, when I was growing up, and certainly more so today, most Lutherans do not even aspire to "coarse" outward training. In fact, I would venture to say that I was taught almost the opposite; namely, that there is no correlation of the physical to the spiritual disciplines.

For all the legalist alarmists and pietist witch hunters out there: yes, there is potential for misbuse and error in this area of thought. That is why Christians need spiritual guides...such as our good pastor...to lead them into the Word of God and prayer.

Rev. Kevin Jennings said...

Prone in bed to pray - that's like me lying back in my recliner to pray - I could easily drift off to sleep before finishing!

Great post!

Anonymous said...

We know the early Church had normative prayer postures: standing, kneeling and prostration. I tend to suspect that they were a fairly reliable guide and see no reason to draw a sharp distinction between what is desirable for public prayer and what is desirable for private prayer.