How to pray the words, "My body longs for God" (Psalm 63:1)

Psalm 63:1 says, "My body longs for you." What does it feel like to physically long for God? How might longing for God contributes to your happiness? And how can you engage in this kind of prayer? Here are two realizations I came to over after meditating on "my body longs for God" for just fifteen minutes.



Realization #1: "My body longs for God" can feel like a Great Calm. 
I have prayed "my body longs for you" many times, and most often I have thought of it as a longing for God that is like frantically searching for a lost wallet. Indeed, sometimes bodily longing for God has a sense of guttural desperation. But not today.

This morning "my body longs for you" didn't like desperation. Instead I unexpectedly drifted into a Great Calm. And I realized that being embraced by the Great Calm was not the opposite of longing for God. It was longing for God. And that's why I wanted to tell you about it. This is great news for those of us who deal with anxiety.

The Great Calm was something inside me and surrounding me at the same time. It felt like an embodied contentedness -- like sitting at the beach on a sunny day.

The Great Calm wasn't overpowering. It was more like a gentle invitation. I have come to recognize that God most often appears with a gentle invitation. (See Elijah on Mount Horeb in 1 Kings 19.)

So, instead of predefining "my body longs for God" as a state of desperation and trying to produce that feeling, I simply and repeatedly prayed, "My body longs for you" and waited to see where that led for today. And God did lead me. He showed me that saying yes to the gentle invitation, saying yes to the Great Calm -- this is what "my body longs for you" can feel like.

The second realization: My body longs for God as a body that already has God. 
If you have ever run around looking for your lost wallet, you know there is a franticness to that search. It's because you don't have your wallet and want to make sure you can recover it. Longing for God isn't like that. It's more like knowing exactly where your wallet is and being comforted that you don't have to think about where your wallet is.

But the wallet analogy breaks down. God is far beyond any wallet. There is always more of God than we can take in. So with God, it's already having him, realizing how good he is, and longing to have more of him. "My body longs for you" doesn't mean pretending we don't have him at all and wanting to find him in the seat cushions of the couch. It's resting in God and being content in him -- and in that contentedness, feeling a burning inside that says, "This is good. I want more." That is living out the words, "My body longs for you."

Finally, bodily longing for God is foundational to human happiness.
There is abundant evidence to show that, especially in our anxiety-ridden culture, anything we can do to calm ourselves contributes to our overall happiness. And Jesus promised his disciples that they would enjoy a full and good life (John 10:10). Returning regularly to a place where we rest assured that God already has us and we already have God is a specific, concrete way to contribute to your overall wellbeing.

Recipe: 10 minutes of "my body longs for you"
So, here's what I would recommend as a prayer exercise.

Ingredients:

  • Timer set for 10 minutes (smartphones have apps for this)
  • Bible opened to Psalm 63
  • A comfortable and relatively quiet space
  • Your body (it's hard to go anyplace without it)
Steps:
  1. Settle into your space.
  2. Read Psalm 63:1-8. Then read it again.
  3. Focus specifically on these words: "my body longs for you." Repeat them at least three times.
  4. Start your timer.
  5. See what happens in your body as you pay attention to how it might long for God. If you get distracted (like I do), be gentle with yourself and return to the words, "My body longs for you."
  6. When you're finished, journal your experience. (Even if you didn't feel anything special, your body could still be longing for God just by breathing for 10 minutes.)
  7. Tell someone else what you have learned about your body longing for God.
  8. Repeat whenever you need some wellbeing.

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