Thursday, August 6, 2015

Body Prayer

A Prayer of Self Disclosure 
by Lloyd Edwards 

     In most printed prayers (e.g. The Book of Common Prayer), and in most public prayers, the 
emphasis is on God and not on self. This is in keeping with traditional religious attitudes, where 
God is to be glorified and self is to be deprecated. In those prayers, and in prayers based on 
traditional religious attitudes, we usually hide ourselves before God's grandeur, like an errant child 
“keeping a low profile,” or like Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden of Eden. 
 In emerging religious attitudes the ego is to be healthy and strong but not imperial (Jesus
 certainly had a strong ego), and prayer is where we bring the self before God. This means that 
we do not need to hide in our encounter with God; on the contrary we need to disclose what we 
know of who we are. We need a way of praying that allows us to bring ourselves before God, to
name ourselves so that God, who knows our true name, can illuminate and correct our partial 
     Here I present a form of prayer that meets this need. Many to whom I taught this form of prayer 
report that they have indeed been blessed by it. 
    The skeptic may object, “God knows what we need and who we are. Why should we have to 
tell God what's going on inside us?” The problem with that objection is that God knows who we are,
but we may not. “Learning who we are” is a lifetime enterprise, and we are often ignorant or in denial 
of our feelings. If we learn to name them, we take a huge step in learning who we are. If we name 
them before God and let God accept us totally, including our feelings, then we may be blessed by 
God. Many writers have noted that knowledge of self and knowledge of God increase together.
 To offer ourselves to God for such a blessing, I propose a way of praying that I call a “prayer of 
self-disclosure.” It is probably not original; in the spiritual tradition few things are. But I do not know 
of an earlier similar proposal in the Christian spiritual tradition. (In one of the Native American 
traditions, one begins by naming oneself: “It is I, Lloyd, who speaks.” This is a step in the direction 
proposed here.) 
 The prayer of self-disclosure is based on the ideas in the book Focusing, by philosopher 
Eugene Gendlin1 and elaborated in other books2. Focusing is a way of listening to one's interior 
“felt meaning” (Gendlin's phrase) to discover the wisdom of one’s body, expressed through one’s 
feelings; Focusing helps to translate the feelings into words. When I direct my attention to what I 
call “I”, located in the interior of my body, I go first to my current feelings and body sensations. For 
many of us, how I feel in the moment is who I am. In this proposal, I assume that the same thing 
is true for those who might use this way of prayer. 

Here is the method of the prayer of self-disclosure, presented in imperative statements for clarity. 
1. Place yourself before God in whatever way suits you. Take a few moments to let God's loving gaze 
behold you, something like letting the rays of the sun warm and illuminate you. The image here is Jesus' 
use of the term abba (papa or daddy) for God, implying that we approach as a young child, perhaps 
three or four years old, and we receive the dependably loving gaze of our (ideal) parent. 
2. Direct your attention inside your own body and ask, “What's going on here?” You may notice 
feelings or sensations. Whatever you find, name it. “I am feeling a little tired.” Often we find that 
we feel neutral. If so, stay with this exploration until something else emerges. 
 The four “basic feelings” used by many therapists may be useful here: in a given moment, I 
may feel mad, sad, glad or scared, or some combination of these. If you feel neutral, then ask:
 “Do I feel mad (angry, resentful, etc.)?” and wait for an answer. If nothing emerges, ask: “Do 
I feel sad (down, depressed, blue, etc.)?” and wait for an answer. Continue similarly through 
glad and scared. Whatever you find, name it without judging it or yourself. 
3. Suppose you complete step 2 with the awareness that you feel a little angry. Offer it to God. 
“Right now I am a little angry,” in the assurance that God accepts you in whatever state you 
approach God. Then return to the interior of your body, and ask, “So I feel a little angry. 
What else is going on?” Give the answer time to emerge. Suppose you get, “I'm a little angry, 
and feel a good bit of excitement or energy in my body.” Again, offer to God your present awareness: 
“God, I am a little scared, and also feel a good bit of energy.” Then take a few moments to be 
aware of God's acceptance and love of you as you are, however you are. 
4. Repeat step 3 several times. Many people say that after several repetitions, they experience 
a sense of relief in their body, as if their body was relieved and grateful to be heard. 
5. Complete this part of the prayer by offering to God all of yourself that you are aware of, 
including the feelings that you have identified, and again sit for a few moments in the warmth of 
God's love for you. 
6. Finish this time of prayer in any way you wish. Do you notice a difference in your sense of 
who you are in your body? Do you notice a difference in your feelings toward God? 

     We often say that God loves us, but that may be something that we know with our mind, 
because we believe that God loves us, but that we have never felt in our body. The prayer of 
self-disclosure may give us the felt experience of being loved and accepted by God. 
It is surprising to read, in the Christian spiritual tradition, what a negative role the body plays. 
This is probably due to the influence of Gnosticism and, more generally, to the dualism in the 
culture into which Christianity was born, a culture that valued the mind or spirit much more than 
it valued the body. Paul writes about the “resurrection of the body,” but dwells much more on the 
transformation of the mind, and makes his well-known distinctions between spirit and flesh, with 
spirit always more important than flesh. 
 It is time to bring the body back into the Christian spiritual tradition in a more positive way, as a 
blessing rather than a burden. I offer this as a way to begin.

1 Gendlin, Eugene, Focusing (New York: Bantam Books, 2nd (revised) edition, 1982).
2 For example, see Cornell, Ann Weiser, The Power of Focusing (Oakland: New Harbinger, 1996). 
For more resources, see the Focusing Institute website at

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Questions available for discussion or reflection

A set of questions for discussion or reflection is available for A Place to Breathe. To receive them, email Lloyd Edwards at They are free and are in .pdf format. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I just finished reading Lloyd Edwards new book A Place to Breathe: Creating the World That God Intended and Still Does.  I highly recommend it, but only if you are open to personal growth and societal change in realizing the reign of God in the human condition.  If you prefer living in a survival mode of life, struggling to maintain the status quo while sometimes hankering after the way things used to be (you believe); then, avoid Lloyd’s book.  It will only aggravate you and you probably would not finish it anyway.  But, we can always hope for continual transformation toward the reign of God in our lives, regardless of how comfortable stasis seems.  Read the book.  It may sneak up on you with something new and good and God.

Your brother in Christ,
By the Rev. Blaney Pridgen -- used by permission

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From the Foreword to A Place to Breathe

This is the book I wish I had read many years ago.
As a boy I heard hundreds of sermons, most of them excellent, I’m sure. But I remember being impatient with most of them, because I wanted the preacher to cut out all the stories and flowery language, and just tell me what to do. I wanted the specific plan of action that resulted from the narratives. I have lived with that want for a long time...

One of my basic questions was: how do you put it all together? I read a number of theologians, including Tillich, Barth, Pannenberg, Teilhard, Bonhoeffer, Neibuhr, and Rahner. All were helpful, but all brought heavy philosophical concepts to their articulation of the faith. What I wanted to know was less intellectual than the questions they addressed: how do you put it all together at the practical, daily, lived level? Do you really need all the philosophical background to be an intelligent and thoughtful Christian? Tillich wrote of the theological circle in which theology offered answers to questions raised by philosophers, but I was no philosopher, nor was any other Christian I knew. Were our questions worthwhile? Is the Christian faith primarily explanatory, a response to philosophical questions? What if I am not asking the “right” questions?

This book is my answer to those questions. Given the Bible stories, the history of the church, and the great body of dogma and doctrine that has developed over the centuries, what does a person of faith do? And how does such a person put it all together as a practical, useful way of thinking about and acting out the Christian life? I share my answer in print, certainly not as any kind of authoritative final word, but in a sense as an invitation to explore, to question, to put together the reader's own version. Each reader will have different specific questions and issues, and so will come to a different overall synthesis, but my experience with my fine teachers and with their generosity leads me to believe that others may have the same questions I had, and that my sharing – in this book – will be helpful to them as my teachers' generous sharing was to me.

Monday, November 17, 2014

From Chapter 1: What is God About?

In traditional rites for the Holy Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion,…), the opening call and response has to do with the reign or Kingdom of God. That call and response goes like this:

Leader: “Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”

Congregation:“And blessed be His [sic] Kingdom, now and forever. Amen.”1

In those two lines we sum up the church’s mission. But we often say those words unthinkingly, without awareness of their import. How many of us can say what the Kingdom of God is, or what it means to bless God or God’s kingdom? And if we cannot describe it in our own words, what do we mean when we say it? And if we do not know what it means, how can we possibly “work, pray, and give” to “bring in the Kingdom?”2

1 The Book of Common Prayer, p. 355

2 The Book of Common Prayer, p. 856