Oct 11, 2010

Outward praise for God is not an easy practice for me. Most of my praise stays quietly locked in the thoughts and prayers in my head. In corporate worship, it comes out of my mouth in the spoken words of rote prayers and prescribed liturgy. I describe my praise as tamed and house-broken. Even when I feel the urge for some more visceral, full-bodied expression, I feel my inner trainer cry, “Sit, down, stay.”  My arms rarely leave their vertical hangdown place at the side of my body.

Liturgical dance has provided one outlet for including my body in praise, but it has usually been planned and choreographed. I’m embarrassed by spontaneous bursts of gratitude and adoration that involve my arms leaving my side and flying above my head. It seems somehow unseemly or irrational to allow my soul stuff to be so naked.

Last week on the magnificent, rugged coast of Maine looking over the Atlantic Ocean, I felt one of those unbound, uncontrollable moments of praise creeping from my heart into my shoulders and rushing through my arms and fingers. I wish I could say I didn’t care what the three other people standing with me thought about my far flung arms. But I did. As much as I want to be a reckless lover of God, I don’t really want other people to know it. I covered up my uncomfortable posture by asking my husband to take a picture of me standing on the rocks.

I think I owe God an apology. “Forgive me, God, for being so stingy and so guarded with my emotions for you.” When I look at this picture, I know what I was feeling. When I look at the picture, the word orant comes to mind. An orant, according to, is “a representation of a female figure, with outstretched arms and palms up in a gesture of prayer, in ancient and early Christian art.” I bet the early orants could have cared less what other people thought about their outstretched arms and their showy love of God.


  1. Hi Sybil,
    I too struggle with my outward expressions of praise to God. Sometimes I want to shout, raise my hands in praise,or just kneel before God when I worship.
    God knows our hearts and if we are worshipping with all our hearts in love and praise to Him, our posture doesn’t really matter.
    I am enjoying your website and am learning to pray in color. I’m also using my art journal to illustrate sermons given by my pastor.
    Thank you agan for sharing the creativity God has given you. Lael

  2. Hi Lael,
    Thanks for writing. Thanks also for the reminder that I can be a timid pray-er and God’s okay with that!
    I like the idea of illustrating sermons. I tend to take notes in strange places on the bulletin during the sermon, but that’s about as illustrative as I get.
    God’s Peace,

  3. I have this exact same feeling. I had some experiences that still make it hard for me to praise God with movement. So thank you for opening up about it! I really do appreciate it. And thank you for all you share. A minister mentioned your book in passing and I think it’s been the best thing for my prayer life in a long time.

    • Thank you, Danae, for taking the time to tell me this. God’s Peace to you and a Holy Christmas. Sybil


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