I have been reading articles on prayer. Writers of different shades have given their views but somehow one area which has remained untouched is: Is prayer a matter of soul or of soul and body both?
As we know, people of different sects and religions adopt different physical postures while offering prayer. In other words, they believe that both soul and body have to take part in prayer. For example, in many sects of Hinduism, a man while offering prayer prostrates. Many tweak their ears, others press their noses. Many move up and down. Many press themselves against the wall. Many raise their hands. In a few places, they even dance
Many squat with their hands on knees and two fingers joined. In Sikhism, the one who offers prayer prostates before the Guru Granth Sahib. In Islam, prayer is not only a spiritual hymn, it is also a set of movements, standing, kneeling and prostration, combined with a conscious mental concentration on the verses recited. A few beat their chests.
And this is not all. Many believe that the body has to be first cleaned before prayer can be offered. Even sage Patanjali prescribes shauch (cleanliness) before samadhi. Then there are many who believe that something has to be applied on the forehead. There are many others who believe that prayer has to be done before taking food. But, in Punjab, where jagrata is very popular form of prayer to goddess, people take sumptuous food before the prayer is started. This makes one believe that in prayer the body has a vital role to play.
When I questioned a scholar on the relevance of body movements, his reply was that all bodily actions and postures are aimed at making the mind stable to help focusing on the divine power or any other power you have accepted; by detaching one from worldly affairs. It is called, dhyana. Without stable mind, all prayers are only rituals.