Sunday, August 27, 2006

Extra-Biblical crud

Many of my missionary colleagues (anonymous and nonymous?) together with other bloggers are discussing extra-Biblical junk that is presented by our culture which gets in the way of a Christ-centered life and/or missions. The example I bring to the discussion table is miniscule in reality, but it represents the broader, deeper problem.

Last week, at a church I was attending, they had a "children's sermon" or "Kid's moment" or whatever. That part I didn't have a problem with. What concerned me was at the end, the woman who was leading this (didn't have a problem with that, either) said something to the effect of "OK, now, everyone assume their prayer posture". (That was the part I had problems with). This statement, "Prayer Posture" is extremely important in some cultures. People seem to think that they must be in a certain position or posture to be able to pray, whether it is kneeling or prostrating themselves. In this overseas Baptist sub-culture I am in, I have NEVER heard anyone talk about a "prayer posture". I think I know what she meant, that is, bow your head and close your eyes, but to ask/tell children to assume their "prayer posture" simply went over the top for me.

When I was a kid growing up in church (not a Baptist church, by the way) we all knew that you were supposed to close your eyes and bow your head to pray. But sometimes, as a kid (and maybe sometimes now) I looked around at people while they prayed. There was this one older man who closed his eyes, but he NEVER bowed his head; he ALWAYS looked up. Being the inquisitive kid, I asked him why. He said that as a kid, he was always taught to look at someone when he was in conversation with them and he assumed the Lord was up, so, he always looked up. I thought this was a little weird, but I decided that it was OK with me.

My first year on the field, a missionary who had been there a couple more years on the field mentioned that he didn't like the way I prayed. Being the inquisitive kid, I asked him why. He said that my body presentation didn't look like I was being sincere. I asked him to explain further. He said that instead of "sitting up, with my feet on the floor" I continued to sit in whatever position I was in and prayed that way. He said it looked like I didn't understand the solemness of prayer. I thanked him for sharing his feelings with me, and I thought I was quite gracious to not say much at all. I understand his point, but.....

Some of the things the Word says about prayer is to"not pray on the street corners to be seen by all, but go into your private closet"; "don't pray as the pharisee who wasn't repentant, but as the publican who beat his chest with remorse"; "don't use meaningless repetition"; and "pray without ceasing". (paraphrased missionary version PMV). I don't recall reading a portion that said that we must sit upright with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, with our feet firmly on the floor.

Am I way out of line with my thinking? Do I need to encourage others to sit or stand or kneel a certain way for their prayers to be effective? Am I taking this much too personally?

I know that there are much more important extra-biblical mal-practices, but what is your take on this? I'd really like to know.


A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


I find it interesting that this blog, David Roger's latest blog and my latest blog, all seem to be no the same topic...could it be that we have "hit" on something important, or only coincidence?

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


They seem to be ON the same topic...I must learn to proof what I write.

missionarymeg said...

I think you're right on. Here, we often pray with our eyes open while at the table, so that it doesn't single us out unnecessarily.

Just last night in our family time though, we pointed out to our 4-year-old that while you don't HAVE to close your eyes during prayer, if you often find yourself giggling at your brother when you DON'T, it might be a good idea TO close your eyes. Just to keep your focus.