Body and Prayer

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Images of hands in prayer at a prayer stationHands. Heart. Breath. Feet. Eyes. Taste. The whole self.

These aspects of the human body were each one of seven experiential prayer stations set up recently in the Centenary classroom at Duke Divinity School as a project by M.Div. first-year student Emily Knight to take the Old Testament understandings of the body and merge them with a modern understanding of prayer.

Accompanied by music and art, each station in the “Body and Prayer Project” offered visitors a sensory and participatory prayer experience that closely intersected with Scripture and enabled them to use all their senses to pray.

“The project offered ways for people to express themselves before God in physical ways as a form of prayer,” said Knight, who created the project for the Old Testament class, “Biblical Bodies,” taught by Anathea Portier-Young, associate professor of Old Testament at the Divinity School. “For me, the physical nature of prayer reminds you of the realness of your faith in the here and now.”

The self-guided stations with written instructions included washing feet; viewing images of hands in various positions of prayer and also icons; using a stethoscope to listen to your heart beat; putting your whole body in different positions during prayer; using art supplies to create a visual prayer; eating sweet and bitter foods; and practicing special breathing while in prayer.

Portier-Young and Sally Bates, Divinity School chaplain, were advisers for the project. It was funded by the Stewart Henry Arts Fund and sponsored by the Duke Divinity Women’s Center.

For more information, contact Emily Knight.