On Tuesday mornings, I meet with a few other moms at a church near my youngest son’s elementary school to pray. We start out praising God and thanking Him for what He’s done for us. Then we pray specifically for our own kids and generally for the students and teachers and staff at the school.
The whole thing takes less than an hour. We sit on the floor of a preschool classroom and speak softly to the Creator of the Universe, encouraging each other with our candor and empathy. It’s both commonplace and extraordinary.
Our group is a chapter of a much larger organization called “Moms in Prayer.” It’s a worldwide prayer task force that’s been committed to praying for kids and schools since 1984. The mission of “Moms in Prayer” is to cover every school in the world with prayer.
As we were meeting this week, I was conscious of something I’ve done a million times before but without really considering it. I noticed my posture while we prayed. It’s nothing unusual. I bowed my head and closed my eyes and sat very still. This is how I was taught to position my body during a prayer and how I’ve taught my own children. From a mother’s point of view, this was a necessary pose for children to remain quiet. Folded hands means those hands aren’t reaching for something else. Closed eyes means those eyes aren’t being distracted by objects in the room.
Why this was remarkable to me on this particular occasion remains to be seen, but what I understood a bit better about prayer was the humility of the act. Closing your eyes and bowing your head goes against the animal instinct of protecting yourself. You let down your guard. You admit—even for just a moment—that you’re not in control. Crying out to a God who others might claim can’t hear me is an act of faith and devotion. And it’s a sign of humble supplication.
Of course, this isn’t the only acceptable posture for praying. I can’t close my eyes while I’m driving, which is a pretty important time to pray, especially if you’re out doing in any Christmas shopping on the weekends. Sometimes we just can’t physically bow our heads.
These various postures remind me of Gideon, God’s appointed judge/general who was called to fight the Midianites. When He told Gideon there were too many soldiers in his army, God first whittled down the number by sending home the frightened men. Then God instructed Gideon to take the remaining men out to the river to drink. Those who put their mouths in the water—heads down and noses dripping—were sent home. The men who crouched by the river bank and scooped up the water in handfuls, watchful of their surroundings, stayed to fight.
When we pray we must somehow make ourselves both supplicant and soldier, petitioner and prayer warrior. We humble ourselves but with an intentionality and purpose fit for an important mission. Whether our heads are bowed or our eyes are surveying the heavens, we are blessed with the opportunity to speak to a God who listens.