I was reading about different ways Christians have prayed throughout history, and I came across something that struck me. Christians in the early church used several different poses to pray, and each pose was connected to a different type of prayer: lying face-down on the ground was often connected with repentance, standing was associated with praise, etc. But one pose caught my attention. Sometimes, early Christians would pray standing with their arms stretched out to the sides and their heads turned up toward the sky. And while poses like these have been used in different traditions and religions throughout history, early Christians connected this last pose to Jesus’s body on the cross.
And Jesus wasn’t the only one who was crucified. During the time period when Christians in the Roman Empire were praying like this, they themselves were in danger of being crucified. Reflecting on this, an early church leader named Tertullian said, “Let crosses hang us, fires light us, swords cut our throats, beasts attack; the actual stance of the praying Christian is ready for any kind of punishment.”
These Christians knew what it was like to live a life of self-sacrifice. They knew they were in danger. They knew they were vulnerable. But they could face that vulnerability because they followed a vulnerable Savior. Jesus laid down His own life for us because He loves us. He let Himself be killed, willingly assuming the same pose His followers would later use for prayer—a pose some of them would be killed in. Then, He rose from the dead, making the way for all His followers, including those who were killed by Rome, to be raised when He returns.
I’m blown away by the humility and vulnerability demonstrated in this form of prayer. It’s a pose of peace and nonviolence—one that accepts pain instead of returning it. It communicates total praise and total self-sacrifice. It’s the pose of Jesus. And I pray that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, He will help me embody this praise and self-sacrifice. • Taylor Eising
• Have you ever prayed in different poses—standing, kneeling, laying down, hands folded, palms open, arms out, head up, head down, etc.? How could using different poses help us focus on different types of prayer?
• How has Jesus’s self-sacrifice on the cross made it possible for us to live self-sacrificially?
And being found in appearance as a man, he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8 (NIV)