St. Dominic de Guzman, who lived in Spain from about 1170 to 1221, was a great preacher and can still teach valuable lessons to us moderns. He was a man devoted to prayer who would contemplate and fall into ecstasy. Someone compiled his prayer methods into a booklet. They have become known as the Nine Ways of Prayer. All of them use the body to move the soul. You might adopt one or more of the following Ways to refresh your prayer life.
First: Make a deep bow. Bow both head and heart. Do this before the altar, whenever passing a crucifix that represents God’s supreme love, and as you pray the Glory Be. Bowing is a sign of humility before the almighty God.
Second: Prostrate on the ground. That is, lie flat on the floor face down. Men doing this when being ordained. I did it on the day I made my vows as a Sister. As you prostrate, you might rest your head on your folded arms. In this position be sorry for your sins, as well as the sins of others.
Third: Discipline your body as penance. Dominic whipped his back. Welcome physical discomforts and bodily pains as a share in the sufferings of Jesus. Kneel to praise God.
Fourth: Genuflect. Dominic used to kneel and stand repeatedly.
Fifth: While standing, raise your hands to heaven like the orans of the first Chrisitans, clasp them, or hold them open in front of you like a book. Contemplate.
Sixth: Stretch your arms out in the form of a cross. Pray prayers of intercession for others.
Seventh: Stretch your body up to heaven with your hands together above your head, pointing like an arrow. Pray prayers of supplication.
Eighth: Sit quietly and read or pray in the presence of God. Study Scripture. At times you might hide your face in your hands.
Ninth: Walk slowly. As Dominic did this, he would make the Sign of the Cross often. On journeys marvel at the beauty of creation and praise God.
Here are St. Dominic’s Nine Ways depicted in art:
According to a legend, Mary handed St. Dominic the rosary and charged him with promoting this devotion. Historians tell us that this prayer evolved over many years. Nevertheless, Dominic’s Dominicans did much to spread the use of the rosary. It too involves the body, for as we pray the prayers, the beads slip through our fingers.
Another way of using the body in prayer is to dance while listening to (or singing) Christian music. I don’t think St. Dominic did this, but I think God would be pleased by it.
Here is a final thought from St. Dominic:
• How do you involve your body while you pray? Do you sway back and forth like some Jewish people? Do you pray as you run?