By Amelia Britt
As a Masters of Divinity student, my schoolwork and professors are constantly encouraging me to relate to God in new and creative ways.
One such way that I have learned to connect with God is through body prayer. Body prayer is a way of connecting to yourself and God by paying attention to (you guessed it) your body. The prayer involves using your whole self as you relate to God, focusing on sensing your body, moving your body, or simply paying attention to your body, whatever that might mean for you. If you are anything like me before last semester, you might not have heard of body prayer.
Using the body as a way to talk to God seemed so foreign and strange to me. Growing up, my faith community taught me that there were strict divisions between the body and the soul. These divisions meant that I was to ignore my body so that I could focus on nourishing my spirit. Rather than pay attention to the ways in which my body carried spiritual stories of stress, sadness, journeys, and victories, I concentrated only on my spirit.
But what if, instead of denying the body, we learned to listen and pay attention to the messages our bodies are trying to tell us? What if we treated our divinely created bodies as just as important as we treat our spirits?
Our bodies are indeed sacred. As we enter into worship spaces, we sit, stand, sing, maybe even sway as a way of participating in worshipping God. We lift our hands as we pray and rest on Sundays to honor our limitations. Our metaphors of Jesus as bread and wine center around nourishing both our body and soul. Our bodies play a central role in our worship spaces, even if we don’t notice it. God created us in bodily form, so why not honor our whole selves?
If we begin to see the ways in which our body and spirit overlap, we can no longer deny the importance of our embodied form. Rather than a subject to ignore, our bodies become sacred texts, telling stories of struggles, redemptions, and plenty of grace to go around. By inviting our bodies into the conversation with God, we can find hidden stories that we don’t always focus on.
Just like the prayers I say verbally, I can use my body as a way to communicate with God. I can focus on all the things my body does on a daily basis that I don’t think about, offering gratitude to God for the ways in which my body works. I can also pay attention to the way I hold stress in my shoulders and jaw, reminding me to confess to God that I have not let go of the things I cannot control. I can also focus on the ways my body needs healing, asking God to bring health to my muscles that hold too much tension. My body tells a story that goes beyond what my mind can tell. We can invite our bodies into a story about gratitude, confession, and God’s intervention in ways that we might not hold at the front of our minds.
This week, I invite you to pay attention to your body. Listen to the hidden stories that it carries. Practice using your body as a sacred text. Honor the ways in which your body connects and overlaps with your spirit. Allow your body to be the medium through which your full self can enter into rich conversation with the divine. Because you were crafted by the divine, God welcomes your whole embodied self.
Amelia Britt is a CBF Leadership Scholar and Masters of Divinity student at Wake Forest University. She calls Savannah, Ga., home, but lives in Winston-Salem with her beloved cat, Kisses.