Into the Silent Land During Prayer and Liturgical Reflection Essay

The body plays a major role in prayer and therefore to ensure an effective prayer is performed, one has to take into consideration certain aspects of contemplative practice (Laird 31).

Into the Silent Land Reflection

Concentration and dedication to oneself are significant in facilitating the understanding of the word of God and as well praying effectively. The body plays a major role in prayer and therefore to ensure an effective prayer is performed, one has to take into consideration certain aspects of contemplative practice (Laird 31). These aspects of contemplative practice are; the breath, posture and the usage of a prayer word. Prayers and worship require undivided attention and the stillness of the body enables the mind to still thus providing a full concentration for prayers. Therefore, this paper is a reflection of aspects of contemplative practice which are the breath, posture and the usage of a prayer word and the role they play in facilitating concentration during prayer according to chapter 3 of Laird Martin’s book. This paper will also discuss a personal liturgical experience at St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles.

Body posture and position have been inferred to affect concentration during prayer in human beings. Actually, the body possesses two significant impacts in contemplative practice which are; the physical stillness of the body as well as the breath. The body’s stillness enhances the mind to still thus facilitating concentration (Laird 31). Literally, this suggests that sitting still effectively aids the practice of being keen and paying attention to avoid the attention from being diverted by thoughts. In essence, it implies that by sitting in a firm and still position, the body gives the mind total concentration such that attention is not diverted to other thoughts. It is recommended for Christians to sit on a small stool which is low to the ground since it gives the body a perfect posture that makes it still (Laird 32).  This actually seems to be very true because not only my church but also other several churches have applied this concept and called it a prayer bench. Another concept that is interesting is the act of sitting on the low benches or stool while bending the head in the direction of the navel. This is a practice that is usually applied in my church. In fact, when praying in the church I usually bend towards the navel. This concept relates to my personal values that whenever I am praying, I need to show some respect to God by bowing down as I pray. Even though many people think that it is okay to pray while in any position and the prayer will definitely be effective, some praying positions are more suitable and effective to still prayer.  In a real-life situation, I have personally perceived the advantages of an upright and firm sitting posture. I find myself more concentrative when I sit upright. Out of this, I learn that body posture is important in ensuring an effective prayer. Therefore, my contemplative practice will improve in future as I apply this concept in my spiritual life.

Christians, believe that breathing impacts the interior silencing in human bodies. Breath is perceived to be the facilitator of stillness. Literally, in any activity that needs concentrated effort, breathing is involved  (Laird 38). Prayer also an activity requiring concentration definitely needs a breath. From a biblical perspective, breath is considered a divine presence in human estuary. God breathed into the man’s nostrils to give him life. However, there is a traditional aspect of the breath which is the utilization of one’s breath as a means of experiencing such divine-human affection as the facilitator which eliminates the illusion of being separated from God  (Laird 39). Practically, in my own view, I perceive that when one breathes comfortably without any difficulty, the mind tends to be in a stable and still state giving it the convenience of sole concentration. Therefore, the notion of breath contributing to the stillness of the mind by bringing back concentration relates to my personal values since they both agree that breath contributes a lot to the stillness of the mind that enhances concentration. I have also learned that breath is important in concentration seeking, therefore churches should have proper ventilation systems that will facilitate efficient breathing among the congregation.

A prayer word plays a significant role in setting the mind still and recollect all the attention. The mind is always occupied and tends to have diverted attention. To get the full attention of the mind, one has to use certain words or phrases that instantly reassemble all the attention in mind and direct it to the prayer  (Laird 35). In my view, to get the attention, one has to give something to the mind for it to do. It will help the mind to attract all the attention towards that special activity. Suppose, if fails, one should give the mind a word or a short phrase for it to repeat it silently. This word or phases will stimulate the mind to divert all attention to the particular phenomenon or activity you intend it to. In our church, to attract everybody’s attention when we want to pray, we usually say the phrase “let us pray.” This attracts the attention fully into prayers. My personal values relate to this because I believe that, to get people’s attention when praying you have to begin with some phrases such as “ let us pray” or word a word such as  “God”. In essence, I have learned that some words are magical in attracting attention during prayer and it is important for every Christian to get to know these specific words or phrases so that they can apply it during prayers.

Liturgical experience

Last Sunday, I went to St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles. Upon arrival in the church, the service began with Divine Liturgy whereby people walked to the front of the church to pray as well as lighting up candles. We then proceeded to have a Eucharistic service for one hour then later had the service of Martin, followed by half an hour of faith teaching. As we worshiped or when it was a time to pray, we would stand up. We spent most of the time standing throughout the service since worship is understood to be work and the presence of God requires all believers to stand. We seated on a form that is quite low and has a place to kneel on.

Moreover, when beginning to pray, we would first begin by making the sign of the cross using the right hand. Additionally, we had to kneel white bowing our heads down when praying. Some people finished their prayers by sweeping the floor with their right hand. I also noticed some people kissing their crosses while others touched the edges of the vestment of the priest while he passes by. When it came to the time of receiving the Holy Communion many orthodox Christians went to receive it as they take portions of it for themselves. This process was accompanied by songs and hymns led by the church choir. The Virgin Mary was venerated as her name was praised often and to honor her several scriptures were recited accompanied some songs. Eventually, at the end of the service, people would great each other before they leave the church premises. All in all the experience was exciting and informative since I got to learn a number of contemplative practices that will shape my ways of worship and conducting prayers.