Posture in Prayer

Is it still the rule that laity should only pray with arms outstretched during private prayer but never during Mass?

I have seen occasions where the priest asks people to open their arms while praying the ‘Our Father’. Is this correct or an error by the priest?

Nowhere in the rubrics does it ask the people to their hands, so the priest should not be asking us to.

Out-stretched arms? Never heard this rule. Hands folded in prayer is very common. Fingers working the beads of a Rosary is good. Holding the Bible, prayer cards or other items seems fine.

To paraphrase Cardinal Arinze, the Church does not prescribe or regulate what the laity do with their hands during the liturgy. There is a certain amount of latitude granted to what the laity can do with their hands.

Personally, I join my hands like an altar server when I am not holding a hymnal. This makes sense to me because I am sometimes an altar server, and sometimes in the choir. If it makes sense to you to fold your hands, or put them in your pockets, or hold your wife’s hand, then do what you will. It is not your place to make others adopt a particular gesture or posture.

But the orans position is an ancient, popular, and recognizable method of praying. There is no reason it should be discouraged during the liturgy if it has always been used by the laity.

However, when the request comes from the celebrant, that is a slightly different matter, since he is asking that the faithful do something that is not a part of the GIRM. In this case, I believe that the celebrant, as well-intentioned as he may be, might be adding something to the Mass that he has not authority to do.

Thank you all for your responses. I have realized I have been lazy in not consulting the GIRM or Celebrating the Mass from the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

GIRM has most to say about Gestures and Posture but I can’t find anything about posture relating to the hands during prayer. The only thing I can find is that before the Deacon proclaims the Gospel he should greet the people with hands joined when he says, ‘the Lord be with you’.

On the general point GIRM 42 says “A common posture, to be observed by all participants is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the sacred Liturgy.”

I think this refers mainly to standing, kneeling, sitting in unison but I guess could also apply to the celebrant requesting people pray the "Our Father’ with arms out, palms up in the orans position. Maybe? :shrug:

My understanding is that the orans position is reserved to the priest celebrant, and that it is a liturgical abuse for the laity to adopt it during the Mass.

I recall that Rome was asked about holding hands during the Our Father, and the response was a discouragement of the practice.

I always try to remember that if I put 5 to 5 I’m in the proper prayer form.


Thanks for the link. However it refers specifically to a variation to the sign of peace rather than attitude in prayer.

I guess all of us, when young, were taught to pray with our palms together but I very rarely see this posture amongst the laity today. Many, or most, seem just to clasp their hands together when praying. It is usually just the Servers and Deacons who stand at the altar with palms together.


That is my understanding of the orans as well. Only the priest does it during the Our Father.

Catholics don’t know what postures to use during Mass, because they are not reading the Missal, which tells them what to do. Their hands cannot hold the book when they are doing all those weird hand signs, so it’s pretty sure they will never know better - a vicious circle.

My guess is the new English Missal has an agenda behind it of jarring catholics to read the missal for once, by throwing off all their assumptions and recitations, and would hopefully capitalize on the chance to clear all this up by specifically telling them what to do while they are a captive audience, but I am not holding my breath. I’d love to get a leaked copy.

The Orans posture is an ancient (the Early Christians prayed this way) way of praying

It is not though the way the laity pray during the Liturgy.

A great book to read is Pope Benedict XV( (before he was Pope) “The Spirit of the Liturgy”

A lot of people do it in the daily mass I attend. I just bow my head and clasp my hands.

Although I wonder if the reason I feel some resistance to praying in the Orans position at mass is because of all the comments I see on this forum. :shrug:

One will note in the rubrics that Deacons are actually to have their hands together during the Lords Prayer and the Priest prays in orans posture.

It does not note what the hands of the faithful are to do…but since the Deacon is to not use this posture…(one could say other things as well I imagine)…it is reasonable that the faithful would not either…

But having said that…at other times…feel very free! It is ancient!

I think in the church I attend, they just follow the priest. I watched carefully today as the priest adopted the Orans posture and the people followed.

Yes I understand…but that is for the Priest to do at that point. It is his action according to the rubrics.

From the new rite.

This is copy and paste

The Communion Rite
124. After the chalice and paten have been set down, the Priest, with hands joined, says:At the Savior’s command
and formed by divine teaching,
we dare to say:
He extends his hands and, together with the people, continues:Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Alternate musical settings of the Lord’s Prayer may be found in Appendix I, pp. 000-000.
125. With hands extended, the Priest alone continues, saying:Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may be always free from sin
and safe from all distress,
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
He joins his hands.
The people conclude the prayer, acclaiming:For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

Now I am not sure if the red highlight from the original will show but, It makes it clear that only the priest is to perform the orans. Note that it is only the priest who extends his hands.

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