Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent: Kneeling in Humility, Repentance and Seeking God Afresh

Since the Early Church, Lent has been a season set aside for seeking God afresh in our lives. Lent is the forty days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. It is a time to focus anew on where our relationship with the Lord is and where we would like it to go.

Any time we want to move forward with God, it means we need to let go of where we are. Inevitably that entails confessing sin in our lives. Whether sins of the flesh or an ungodly attitude or unforgiveness—we cannot move forward with God unless we confess our sin to the Lord, ask forgiveness and turn from it.

Kneeling in Confession
One important time for kneeling before the Lord is when we confess our sins. Kneeling or falling prostrate before the Lord has been closely associated with confessing our sins in prayer. How appropriate it is for us to humble ourselves utterly as we come before a holy God with our transgressions!

Origen, one of the early theologians of the Church, states, “Kneeling is necessary when someone is going to speak against his own sins before God, since he is making supplication for their healing and their forgiveness. We must understand that it symbolizes someone who has fallen down and become obedient, since Paul says, ‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’ (Eph. 3:14-15).”[1]

Inner and Outer Affecting Each Other
As quoted in an earlier blog, Origen stresses the importance of our physical attitude “because one then carries in the body too, as it were, the image [icon] of that special condition that befits the soul during prayer.”[2] Our bodies are the outward image or icon of our inner spiritual condition.

It goes the other way, as well. Our physical position also influences our inner disposition. When we stand before someone of importance—whether a judge in the classroom or applauding an excellent performer—our bodily stance helps to cultivate the respect we have for them. It is a spiral. Our physical stance affects our inner attitude; then, in turn, our heart’s attitude in expressed through our body’s attitude.

“Thus, there is a genuine reciprocity between one’s internal disposition and external posture. This is the ‘special property’ of the soul, which in the body’s posture creates, so to speak, a suitable ‘icon’ of itself,” summarizes Gabriel Bunge. [3] Our outer self and inner self have an effect on each other. In prayer, our whole being is involved—and that is as it should be. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

Pursuing God this Lent
Getting our bodies involved in prayer helps to fully engage our minds and our hearts. As one writer states, without kneeling, bowing, raising hands and otherwise engaging our whole bodies, our prayer “will be routine, cold, and shallow.” [4] Many Christians who have a personal relationship with the Lord would probably nevertheless admit that much of their prayer has become rather routine, and probably somewhat shallow and even cold.

Let us take this season as a unique opportunity to seek God in our lives. Where we have been passive or have gone in the wrong direction, we can confess our sin to God. Engaging our bodies—and all our strength—we can come humbly before God. Let us take this Lent to stir the coals inside us and kindle that flame of love for the Lord!
[1] Origen, On Prayer, 31:3, in An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, trans. Rowan Greer, CWS (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), p.165.
[2] Origen, On Prayer, quoted in Gabriel Bunge, Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p.152.
[3] Bunge, p. 146.
[4] Joseph Busnaya, quoted in Bunge, 139.

© 2013 Glenn E. Myers

No comments:

Post a Comment