Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prayer, for Kinaesthetics

Do you pray?
If so, how do you pray?
And, do you find prayer a struggle?

Okay, praying can be a struggle for all kinds of reasons. Wrestling with unanswered prayer would be a big one. And perhaps in a sense prayer isn’t meant to be so easy that we de-value it: it is a discipline, and disciplines both require and grow perseverance. But prayer is essential, and I don’t think it is meant to be so hard that we give up…

I suspect that one of the reasons many people find prayer difficult is that it is often taught as, or assumed to be, an abstract activity. In my tradition, at any rate. You close your eyes, and talk inside your head to someone who is invisible. But a lot of people aren’t abstract, conceptual thinkers or learners. What about:
those who process through their ears (aural);
those who process through their eyes (visual);
those who process through their hands (kinaesthetic)?

Men are more likely to be kinaesthetic, and visual, in how they engage with the world than women. Their conversations are more likely to be mediated through an object: men don’t talk while nursing a pint simply because alcohol can lubricate conversation (which it can), but because the physical act of holding the glass aids conversation, too…
In church traditions that don’t allow for kinaesthetic engagement, there tend to be far more women than men…
Go join the dots…

I often use visual images as aids to prayer or meditation, such as two Orthodox icons – a ‘Pantocrator’ (Jesus ruler over all), and ‘Mother of God’ (Mary with the infant Jesus) pairing – I picked up from some charismatic evangelical Lutherans in Sweden. They sit on the bookshelf above my desk at college (the icons, not the Lutherans).

My virtual friend Alan Creech is making beautiful, simple rosaries. He has a good explanation of what using a rosary as an aid to prayer is, and isn’t, here. Of course any aid or tool can become abused, but that is no reason to be suspicious of the aid or tool per se. I wonder whether this might be another baby Protestants threw out with the bath-water?

I wonder whether the physicality of a rosary might be helpful for kinaesthetic men who find prayer a struggle? I’m contemplating ordering one. Whether I do or not, I wanted to let you know about them. Go pay a visit…

1 comment:

  1. Good words Andrew - and thanks for the link. I definitely think tangible tools like rosaries could help in the way you're talking about. I think for anyone in this way too busy world of ours, to have something that helps them focus in, is a good thing. For example, the other day I was standing in the Post office, in line, reached in my pocket and ran through the rosary beads as I prayed silently. Anyway, it can be helpful. Peace to you and Happy Advent.