The Posture of Prayer

Week of October 23, 2016

In the Gospel there is a comparison of followers praying to God.  One is a Pharisee and he takes his place for others to see.  He has a starting point of comparing himself to others in the temple area.  The other is a tax collector.  He keeps his distance.  He allows his sinfulness, shame and unworthiness to be his starting point.  He is humble and stays close to the ground.  This contrast invites us to look at our prayer posture.  I remember being told to always sit up straight and look forward.  When I was in grade school attending a Confirmation rehearsal, I got called out by my teacher for pulling myself up using the pew in front of me to help.  The teacher asked if my legs were hurt since I did not use them to hoist myself up when we were supposed to stand up. Embarrassed by this confrontation, I am sure I never tried that again.  Posture is important and the Lord invites us to look with humility upon the love of God.  The Lord invites us to realize we do not pray by looking at others and comparing ourselves to them.  Posture does not come from telling God all the things we are not.

While I was in the city for the Marathon, I caught up with a couple I have known for a long time who shared with me an experience that was both life-changing and life-giving.   They were at the first game of the Cubs playoff and afterwards were walking away from the park to catch Uber to pick them up.  While they were waiting, the bus arrived so they canceled Uber and hopped on the bus.  While sitting there late on a Friday night in the city the bus stopped and a person got on who frightened them.  He was bearded with a dark complexion.  They assumed he was Muslim and began to profile him.  He had a backpack and they huddled closer to each other wondering if it had been a wise choice to get on the bus.  As they looked over at him, they both began to wonder if they had seen this person before.  There was something familiar about his eyes.  They felt they had seen him before, but where?  Then it dawned on them.  He might have been the doctor at Northwestern that had been instrumental in the healthcare of the husband’s brother.  So my friend Jim went back to where the man was sitting and asked if he was a doc from Northwestern.  He answered “Yes”.  Then Jim said, “You need to know you saved my brother’s life and we are eternally grateful to you.”  The doctor was relieved that Jim’s brother was still alive and told them that their news had made his day.  God took this bus ride from a place of fear to a place of grace.  It was a ride where judging because of appearance was overcome by a courage to acknowledge goodness.

Prayer posture begins when we focus on God.  It continues when we open our hearts to the grace that is given as a gift. Prayer posture never begins with the putting down of others or a comparison of who we are in relation to others.  May our prayers rise to God and may our posture be perfect.

Reverend John J. Ouper