“Let us pray”
Whenever I say these words as part of a church service or when it is said as part of a home visit, people generally bow their heads. I have often wondered what is behind this gesture. I suspect it is a deep expression of humility, by bowing my head I make myself a little bit lower and less defensive.
Also, I think that when I pray I want to be less distracted by what goes on around me, I therefore bow my head to be more focussed on the prayer in hand.
The strange thing is that there is a very great deal of head-bowing going on all around us. Indeed, I would say that there has never been so much of it around as there is just at this present time. No-one is looking up any more because we are all bowed down looking at our smart-phones. By bowing our head and looking at our screens, we are suddenly connected to a world of information and entertainment that has never before been so much at our fingertips.
This is happening while walking, while travelling on public transport, even in restaurants. No-one is asking for directions any more, because our smartphones guide us and lead us to our destinations.
Jesus is often described in the New Testament as ‘praying’, his posture is rarely mentioned apart from when it says that he fell to the ground and prayed. And once before the longest prayer that Jesus prays in the New Testament he is described as ‘lifting up his head’ (John 17.1).
For me this presents an occasional and powerful alternative to bowing my head. When we lift our heads, we free our airways, we are open to the world and we can focus on the heavens beyond the world.
9 September 2018