Gesture in Prayer
In both our private and public prayer, we use a variety of gestures.
BODY: We sit to listen or observe and stand at significant moments or to express more active participation.
HEAD: We hold our heads high when we sing but bow our heads to show reverence, such as just before receiving Communion.
EYES: Our eyes are open during liturgy so we can experience the spectacle of public worship, but we often close our eyes in private prayer so we can focus our attention on God.
HANDS: We might close our hands as a sign of reverence, but we might hold our hands open to receive the Lord in Communion.
ARMS: We sometimes raise our arms in prayer.
KNEES: We fall on our knees at special moments of great reverence, such as during the Canon of the Mass, and we genuflect on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament.
FEET: We walk on our feet during processions or when praying the Stations.
Why all these gestures? Because our prayer should involve our entire persons—not just our souls and spirits but our bodies as well.
Gestures in the Liturgy
Since the earliest days of the Church, gestures have been an important part of worship. Some gestures are positions for praying. The orans position is used by the priest during the liturgy. The people are welcome to use it, especially during the Lord’s Prayer. The word orans comes from the Latin word for “praying.” Genuflecting was originally used in the presence of rulers. We genuflect in front of the tabernacle as a sign of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.