June 1, 2012
Praying with the Body: Bringing the Psalms to Life
by Roy DeLeon
Paraclete Press, 2009
This work is a unique guidebook for praying the Psalms. Roy invites the reader to not just say or read the Psalms but to wear the Psalms. He wants us to put them on our bodies, to put them in our bodies. He wants the words to become flesh and dwell in us. The invitation to pray the Psalms asks us to stand, breathe, bend, kneel, shake, bow, stretch, raise our arms, and open our hands.
Using simple movements and gestures from Christian worship, yoga, and exercise, Roy creates a daily prayer practice, a chance to get out of our chairs three times a day and worship with our whole body. The book divides the day into three sections: morning (Alleluia), midday (Sanctus), and evening (Amen). The Psalms and the movement prayers in each section match the energy level and intention for the time of day. Within the three sections there are a total of forty different prayer sessions.
For the movement prayer part of the sessions, Roy, a graphic designer by day, provides easy-to-follow, step-by-step drawings of the gestures and postures. A pictorial glossary and warm-up section in the back of the book are helpful. Roy provides clear directions, but he also makes it clear that no physical prowess or skill is necessary to pray the Psalms. Movements can be adapted to differing body types and physical needs.
The prayer sessions from Praying with the Body can be done alone or with a group. I am grateful to have attended a couple of Roy’s workshops. Praying the Psalms in a roomful of people is exhilarating. Listening to the breath of dozens of people and seeing two hundred arms raised and knees bent is a wonderful experience of communal worship.
Praying with the Body is like a spiritual cup of coffee. It’s energizing, eye-opening, rich, and full-bodied. It is a head-to-toe experience of awakening, prayer, and union with God.
Recommended by Sybil MacBeth. Sybil is the author of Praying in Color: Drawing aNew Path to God and Praying in Color: Kids’ Edition. Her most recent book, Praying in Black and White: A Hands-On Practice for Men, was a collaboration with herhusband Andy MacBeth. Visit her website: prayingincolor.com.