As part of our morning scripture series, I’d like to welcome my friend Rachel Britton to share her short morning prayer routine. I know you’ll love it!
Prayer is considered to be a spiritual action rather than a physical activity. However, the posture of our bodies can have a big influence on the way we pray. Although we tend to separate the physical from the spiritual, there are benefits in combining the two in this short morning prayer routine.
When my family and I flew to England recently for my niece’s wedding, I realized how we have neglected using our bodies when we pray. The ceremony took place in a majestic 13th century church. In the lofty interior, my husband and I and our three children squeezed into one of the long, wooden pews.
As we sat and waited for the bride to walk down the aisle, I found myself distracted by the brightly colored hassocks on the shelf in front of us. Beautifully embroidered crests, anchors and “St. George’s Hospital” decorated these padded, rectangular kneelers. I wondered if these hassocks were now only decoration or if members of the congregation still used them to kneel on when they prayed.
Most of us don’t kneel in church to pray. I can vaguely remember one occasion, a number of years ago, when our pastor asked us to kneel during prayer. It was awkward, and we didn’t have hassocks to make it easier. Kneeling to pray seems to have gone out of fashion, or certainly be less common. We view prayer as conversing with God with our minds and mouths, not our bodies.
And, to make it more confusing, the Bible doesn’t give specific instruction on a particular posture for prayer, although there are examples of people kneeling, standing, raising hands, lying prostrate, to name a few.
But, outward bodily expressions do have an impact on our words. I have discovered, in my own prayer life, that the external posture of my body is an outward expression of the inward attitude of my heart.
And, the physical and spiritual fit together well. Prayer helps keep us spiritually fit, just as physical movement keeps us physically fit. Both prayer and physical activity can improve our emotional and mental fitness, too, leading to improved overall health. I like the way The Message brings to attention this kind of thinking: Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever (1 Timothy 4:8). This is a verse I have taken to heart because even the Bible encourages us not to neglect the physical, even though our spiritual fitness is paramount.
So, part of my regular short morning prayer routine is to stretch and pray the moment I get out of bed in the morning.
We’ve all seen a dog or cat get up and stretch after they’ve been sleeping. There are good reasons they do this, and we are no different in needing to do the same.
After staying in the same position for a long time while we have been asleep, our muscles need to be woken up so we can get moving again. Stretching boosts circulation and gets energy flowing through the body. A stretch removes physical tension but it can also help with emotional tension too, especially any anxiety we may feel about the day ahead.
By adding a short morning prayer to a physical stretch we are waking up our spiritual muscles — particularly the heart. We are allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to flow through our hearts and minds, letting God help alleviate the tension of the day ahead.
I keep my routine short — 2 minutes — because then it is manageable.
Too long, and it would become a burden; another thing I have to do when my day is already packed full. Committing to stretching and praying first thing means this healthy exercise doesn’t get forgotten as I get distracted by whatever fills my day. I do not beat myself up if I don’t manage to stretch and pray every morning, but I celebrate when I do, because I feel good.
My Short Morning Prayer Routine
Here’s the short morning prayer routine I follow that you can try too, along with the spiritual benefits I have discovered. (This routine is accessible to almost everyone, although consult with your doctor if you have concerns about physical activity.)
Stretch arms up high— 30 seconds
It makes me focus on God. As a stretch my arms and hands up towards the ceiling of my bedroom, this action forces me to raise my eyes towards heaven. It’s hard to raise your arms and look down. Although God is everywhere it reminds me of the ancients who wrote: O God-Enthroned in heaven, I lift my eyes toward you in worship. (Psalm 123:1 TPT)
It is an act of worship. I want to begin each day thankful to God that His mercies are new every morning. Just like we raise our arms and hands during songs of worship, my prayer is first of all an act of adoration and praise for who God is.
It appeals to my need for God’s greatness and power. By raising my hands to heaven, I am symbolically pleading for my heavenly Father to give me what I need for the day ahead. Without Him in my life, I can do nothing.
Bend over and stretch down — 30 seconds
It is a position of reverence. After I have been focusing on God’s greatness and His mercy for me, I find my natural response is to bow before him. Bending my body is also a continuation of my worship.
It is a sign of humility. I am not worthy before God. Although I have been forgiven through my faith in Christ for all I have made myself without Him, I know I constantly mess up. I can so easily start to think highly of myself. Bending down is a sign I need God’s mercy every day.
Then I stand up again. Although it is important to be humble before God — recognizing our failings and lack of holiness — I am reminded God never leaves us there. He invites us into his holy throne room — to come boldly to him. I stand ready to face my day, not alone but with the God who promises to be with me.
This is where I do two more stretches:
Stretch my arms and body to the left and then to the right — 30 seconds each.
As I stretch to the left and to the right I bring my needs and requests for the day to God. With one stretch I pray for my family and friends and for God’s blessing in their lives. With the other stretch I ask God to direct my activities, conversations and thoughts for the day ahead. I keep hands open and fingers spread wide as a symbol of the trust I want to put in God for everything in my life. It’s so easy to hold tight onto belongings, activities, and people, even.
Then, I’m off to shower, make breakfast, check email and Instagram…but, I’ve kick-started myself both physically and spiritually with this short morning prayer. I invite you to begin your day in the same way.
Rachel is a British-born, author, blogger, and speaker. Her passion is to help others pray naturally by offering practical ways to practice prayer. Find out more at rachelbritton.com and sign up to receive guided daily prayer prompts. Rachel has a Masters in Religion from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She lives in New York City but cannot live without a mug of English tea.