embodied prayer form, nakedness, spirituality

Frank Answers About Being Naked before God

Question: I was intrigued by your example of embodied prayer in your blog article “About Masturbation and Prayer.” Did you get this idea from someplace or did you make it up? There has been a lot of language in spirituality about being naked before God. Has there been a movement to be literal about this rather than metaphorical?

Warning: some nude images

Frank Answers: I made up that prayer suggestion to give the questioner a different way of relating prayer to his “issue.” It was a totally spontaneous response, and I know I went out on a limb. But it didn’t come totally out of nowhere.  I’ve been pondering the meaning of the body ever since I had colon cancer and chemotherapy in 2006-2007.

The Christian tradition regards body and soul as one. But it has tended to give more attention to the soul than to the body. Thomas Aquinas gave more balance to body and soul than other great theologians because he regarded the two together as one substance and held that each needed the other. The body needed the soul’s intelligence and the soul needed the body’s sensory perceptions. The soul is immortal but immaterial; therefore it needs the body’s resurrection for living expression.

My project has been to reclaim the body as the site of God’s interaction with his human creatures. This is the basis of religious ritual and sacramental practice. We talk a lot about the meaning of the sacraments in the abstract. We don’t discuss what it means that the sacraments impact the body.

Too often when we discuss being naked before God, we mean that metaphorically rather than actually.   I’ve also come to see that our spirituality as Christians should be as incarnational (in the flesh) as our theology. (See “Frank Answers About the Body — God’s and Ours.”) We need to give more attention to our life of faith in the body.  When we’re clothed it’s too easy to ignore the actual body. Clothes place a layer of culture and self-identification over the natural body.  When we’re naked we’re more conscious of our body than when we’re clothed, including our bodily relationship to God.

Prayer For Purity is a photograph by Jason Morrow

Brian D. McLaren wrote a book entitled Naked Spirituality about getting naked before God.  But after describing Jesus being stripped of his clothing three times before his crucifixion, and being hung stark naked on the cross, he says: “This is a book about getting naked — not physically, but spiritually. It is about stripping away the symbols and status of public religion—the Sunday dress version people call ‘organized religion'” (p. vii).  Actually, I’ve devoted my life to “organized religion” as a pastor of congregations and as a teacher of liturgy and worship. I also think we ought to return to “Sunday dress” to impress upon our minds through our bodies a sense of the importance of what we are doing when we engage in public worship in the presence of the living God.  But precisely because the way to the mind is through the body I’ve also given some thought to what it’s like to be physically naked in the presence of that living God before whom “no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account” (Hebrews 4:13). Perhaps this is why artists like Michelangelo painted bodies being raised from the dead naked when Christ comes again as Judge in this  mural of “The Last Judgment” above the altar in the Sistine Chapel.

The term “naked” is used in spirituality to describe the experience of everything extraneous to the essential nature falling away: all the wanting and grasping, all the fears and struggles. What would life be like if we could relax into our world rather than feeling like we always had to protect ourselves from it?  Since what we do with the body influences the mind, maybe being completely and actually naked in prayer would help us have a truly “naked” and liberating experience before God.

nude yoga man praying

Nudity in American Culture

One of the things that might keep us from experimenting with nakedness in the presence of God would be negative attitudes toward the body. There’s a significant amount of body shame in our culture. Some people were shamed about their body when they were children or youth by other kids or even by their parents. Maybe they were overweight or small for their age or awkward in coordination in playing sports. Some youth have been sexually abused. Advertisements reinforce our perceptions about what perfect bodies look like and few people measure up to those standards. We become dissatisfied with our bodies. Sometimes it results in eating disorders in which people overeat or starve their bodies in unhealthy ways.

In spite of the ubiquitous presence of nudity in films and on the internet, we Americans are have become rather prudish when it comes to uncovering our bodies in the presence of others. We lack cultural institutions where it is customary to be naked with family members and even with friends and associates such as in the saunas in Finland and Sweden and the spas in Japan and South Korea.

I notice in the locker room at the YMCA that younger men do the “towel dance” to get undressed or dressed without exposing themselves when changing clothes while the older men walk around “butt naked”. The Y requires men and boys to wear shirts for all physical activities and bathing suits in the pool because it is a “family organization.” But as recently as sixty years ago boys and men swam naked in YMCA pools. In my youth boys were required to swim naked in high school swimming classes. It wasn’t an option. Nakedness may have been embarrassing for some, especially since the bodies of young adolescents are developing at differing rates.  But most of us adjusted to the practice rather quickly.

YMCA free swim

This vintage photo reminds me of Boy Scout swimming nights at the YMCA.  Once we were in the pool, our focus was on having fun with each other, not on the fact that we were naked. (See “Frank Answers About Swimming Naked” and the long string of comments on that article that were curated and re-posted in “Frank Answers About Swimming Naked–Commentary I: Discerning the Truth” and “Frank Answers About Swimming Naked–Commentary II: Experiencing Nudity.”)

For all its stress on modesty, Christianity has always affirmed the essential goodness of the human body as God’s creation. Pope John Paul II gave a series of catechetical talks that were collected together as his theology of the body, Male and Female He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. with Introduction by Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006). In 1981, as Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II expressed the Catholic Church’s attitude to the exposure of the human body in this way in Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993):

Because God created it, the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty… Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness… Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful… Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person. “

Adam and Eve by Danish artist Harald Slott-Moller (1864 – 1937)

The legal restrictions on social nakedness in public places has meant that nudity is pretty much associated only with sexuality in our culture in magazines, films, and on the internet.  The fact that nudity is associated with illicit behavior and sexual activity could have an impact on our comfort level with being naked before God even in private. Like Adam and Eve, maybe we are still hiding from God “because we are naked.” The Lord God wanted to know, “who told you that you are naked?” Of course, we told ourselves that after eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Nakedness in Religion

Nakedness has played an important role in religion. The old yogis were naked warriors and ascetics. In India even today there are Hindu naga sadhus (naked holy men) and Jain “sky clad” ascetics who renounce all worldly encumbrances in order to concentrate on spiritual and eternal things. They go around in a state of nakedness, begging for food from villagers, and bestowing blessings.


There are annual and quadrennial gatherings of thousands, even millions, of Naga Sadhus at the Hindu bathing ceremony of Ardha Kumbh Mela in the Ganges River at Allahabad.

Naga sadhu bathing in Ganges River

Jainism, which teaches reverence for all living things more than any other religion (including plants, animals, and insects), believes that the soul or jiva can attain liberation from the material world only by subjugating passions and freeing oneself from all attachment to the body and every material possession. This is why monks following the Digambara (sky clad) sect of Jainism do not wear any clothes at all, whereas the Shwetambaras (white clad) wear minimal, unstitched white clothes. The Jain monks, unlike the Hindu naga sadhus, also shave their hair and often their beards. Since women cannot be naked in public, Digambara Jains believe that women have to be reborn as men before they can achieve total salvation. So women renunciates in both the sects wear white clothes that cover their bodies completely.


Naked yoga classes have been springing up in cities across America and in other parts of the world which provide some experience of social nudity in an activity that has a spiritual dimension.


Most yogins might be reluctant to experience that. But in the privacy of their homes, yogins might practice with less on. I’ve sometimes practiced yoga in the early morning just my pajama bottoms or briefs. My yoga practice includes meditation at the end of asana practice. I’ve tried sitting naked in meditation to experience what it is like. It’s only one step further to move from meditation to prayer. When I once had a friend to sit in meditation with in the morning we did include verbal prayer at the end of our sit and on occasion I was naked.

Yoga meditation man

(See “Frank Answers About Meditation” and “Frank Answers About Naked Meditation.”)

I’ve often thought about those meditating and praying holy men in India who were naked before God and I’ve wondered if there might be a powerful spiritual experience in that practice that I’ve been missing.  With the example of the naga sadhus, as well as a number of biblical references, the idea for naked prayer came to me when I answered the young man’s question about masturbation and the life of prayer. (See “Frank Answers About Masturbation and Prayer.”) Let me line up references from the Bible and from church history to see what these examples might suggest.

Nakedness in the Bible

Certainly the Jewish and Christian traditions have promoted modesty in public dress. But the theme of being naked before God takes us back to the beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 2:25 we learn that “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (The image above this article is The Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.) The immediate effect of the sin of disobedience for both Adam and Eve is that they became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed. The result is an attempt to hide their nakedness—certainly from God, but also from each other. Note in this story where they considered themselves naked. They covered the loin area with aprons made of leaves.

Adam and Eve Ashamed James Jacques Joseph Tissot, French, 1836-1902
James Jacques Joseph Tissot, French, 1836-1902

Contrary to all the paintings of Adam and Eve in which Eve’s breasts are covered with her hair or a tree branch, Eve does not also fashion a bra.  The loin is the area where sex occurs, where our deepest relationship with each other is expressed. Sin broke their relationships with God and with each other and that’s why they covered the genital area. But the Lord God in his grace made clothing of animal skins for Adam and Eve when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Modesty was not what God imposed in the beginning; it was a concession to human shame in the situation of the “fall.”

Nakedness shows up a lot in the Bible and usually at important moments. Jacob wrestled through the night with the angel—probably naked, since that’s how men wrestled in antiquity—and received a name change to “Israel” (meaning “one who struggles with God”).

Perhaps most famously in the Old Testament, David danced naked before the ark of the Lord when he brought it up triumphantly to Jerusalem wearing only a linen ephod (a simple apron), which didn’t leave much to the imagination as he leaped and danced, to his wife Michal’s chagrin (2 Samuel 6:12-16).

David dancing naked
A rather bold illustration in a children’s Sunday School book.

The record for the longest stint of going naked belongs to the prophet Isaiah.  He received an order from God to remove his sackcloth and strip himself naked to the point of baring his rear end (buttocks) and to also walk completely barefoot, essentially going stark naked for three years (Isaiah 20:2-4) as a shocking display to warn the Egyptians and the Cushites of the impending doom that shall befall them when they too shall have to be stripped completely naked from top to bottom. Isaiah’s demonstration was intentionally shameful because he was foretelling the shaming of the Egyptians and Cushites.

Male nude by Robert McIntosh 1935

In the passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark a young man who had been at the baths comes out into the Garden of Gethsemane at the commotion of soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus and drops his towel as he runs off naked into the night. This piece of information which does not essential to the narrative,  suggests, in a tightly written gospel, that it was considered important to the evangelist. Presumably this is the same young man who shows up in the empty tomb wearing a white robe and announcing to the myrrh-bearing women that Jesus is risen and is going ahead of them to Galilee.

Antonio da Correggio,The Betrayal of Christ, with a soldier in pursuit of Mark the Evangelist, c. 1522

Of course, Christ himself was naked in the most important events of his life: his birth; his baptism by John in the Jordan River (he is pictured as naked in the water in an early Eastern icon); his suffering (flogging) under Pontius Pilate; his crucifixion; and his resurrection. Artists have portrayed Christ nude or mostly nude in all of these events.

The most consequential example of Christ being naked before God and the world is his crucifixion. Out of concern for modesty, paintings of Christ’s crucifixion usually have some sort of cloth loosely draped around the loins. But Roman crucifixion was meant to be publicly humiliating and the victims were hoisted naked on the stile for all to see. Their genitals were not sedately covered with a loin cloth. In Roman-style crucifixions, the feet were not resting on a block. Rather, the crucified were seated on an extended rod called the sedile that jutted straight out of the upright post and went between their legs. It wasn’t supposed to be comfortable. And, yes, as they moved back and forth on that rod erections undoubtedly occurred.

Vittorio Carvelli - Crucifixion - Jesus is Speared

“Crucifixion” scene painted by Vittorio Carvelli. See also the oil painting of “The Crucifixion of Christ” by the German Artist Max Klinger, 1890, that showed naked bodies on the cross,  and also a more historically accurate portrayal of Roman crucifixion in Martin Scorsese’s film version of Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ  in “Frank Answers About the Body—God’s and Ours.”

For Christians our crucified Savior was raised up on a public pole naked before God and before the world. Here was the New Adam in a radical act of obedience to God naked and without shame. The crucified naked Christ is a model for how we stand before the Lord who created us.

The risen Christ must have emerged from the tomb naked because the grave clothes were found by the apostles Peter and John rolled up in a heap. Michelangelo portrayed this in his sculpture of the risen Christ in his original sculpture, but a 17th century pope insisted on having Christ’s genitals draped with this bronze “cloth” that doesn’t seem supported by anything. Set next to it in the image below is the model for the finished sculpture.

Michelangelo risen Christ with original

The Body Naked before God and the world in Church History

In imitation of the passion of Christ early Christians went to their martyrdoms, enduring public exposure and gruesome tortures naked and unashamed.  The martyrdom probably most frequently depicted in art is that of St. Sebastian, the army captain who was executed by archers on orders from Emperor Diocletian for showing sympathy to Christians.

Guido Reni, St. Sebastian, c. 1615, oil on canvas

Actually, Sebastian’s martyrdom was quite humane in comparison with those of other Christians, probably owing to his standing in the Roman Legion.  (The legend of St. Sebastian tells that he actually survived, was nursed back to health, and went back to witness to the Emperor Diocletian and was beaten to death.) The most famous example of Roman torture of Christians was feeding them to the lions and other beasts in the arena.

Christians to the lions Herbert_schmalz28
Faithful Unto Death. Oil on canvas 1888 by Herbert Gustave Schmalz (1856-1935)

The remarkable thing about the Christian martyrs was how calm they remained instead of screaming in pain, and how they preached to their tormentors instead of cursing them. By the witness of their bodies they upended the Roman approach to torture.

The body naked and mutilated before God and the world was the primary witness of Christian martyrs. When the age of persecution came to an end, Christian ascetics continued the witness of the suffering body with abstinence from sex and food and a rejection of creature comforts such as clothing and shelter

St. Jerome meditating in the desert. Oil painting by Jean-Jacques Henner (1829–1905).

The raw asceticism of the desert fathers was moderated and regulated in the organization of monasticism. Later in church history there is the celebrated story of young Francis of Assisi removing his clothes and standing naked before his father and his father’s friends and associates to renounce the wealth that had been his birthright.

Scene from Franco Zeffirelli’s film Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972), starring Graham Faulkner

Perhaps picking up on this dramatic action a later Franciscan credo became nudus nudum Christum sequi  (“follow naked the naked Christ”). It was a radical call to cast aside worldly wealth and belongings and acknowledge the fragile, fallen nature of all men and women. Influenced by this Franciscan spirituality, late medieval painters portrayed Christ naked at his birth (with his penis showing) with Mary nursing the child (with her exposed breast) as well as Christ almost naked at his crucifixion and resurrection.

Nakedness in Baptism

For all Christians the body is impacted by the sacraments of Christ administered by the church. Baptism is basically a bathing and anointing of the body. The ancient Christians practiced naked baptism. In his Homilies on the Sacraments (Mystagogical Catecheses) Cyril of Jerusalem commented on how the candidates went naked into the waters and were not ashamed.

“Upon entering [the baptistery] you took off your clothing, and this symbolized your stripping off of “the old nature with its practices.” Stripped naked, in this too you were imitating Christ naked on the cross, who in his darkness “disarmed the principalities and powers” and on the wood of the cross publicly “triumphed over them.” Since hostile powers lurked in your limbs, you can no longer wear your former clothing; I do not of course refer to visible apparel but to “your old nature which is corrupt through deceitful lusts.” I pray that the soul which has once thrown off that old nature may never resume it, but rather speak the words of Christ’s bride in the Song of Songs: “I had put off my garment; how could I put it on?” This was a remarkable occasion, for you stood naked in the sight of all and you were not ashamed. You truly mirrored our first-created parent Adam, who stood naked in Paradise and was not ashamed.”

Granted that people were more used to being naked in the public baths than we are today, Cyril’s theological point was that baptism effects a new creation. Paradise is restored. If sin is about being ashamed before God and others, baptism makes one unashamed to be naked before God and others. Clothing serves to conceal shame. At the most important moment of Christian life—our baptism—we are (or were once upon a time) naked before God.

St. Augustine baptizing the catechumens by Girolamo Genga (1476-1551)

The Orthodox Church continues to baptize adults at least partially naked; they may wear bathing suits, underwear, or a simple white covering. Babies are baptized naked with full immersion, as in this Russian Orthodox baptism.

Embodied Liturgy figure 6 Orthodox child baptism

Nakedness in Prayer

Where does that leave us? I’m not aware of any movements toward naked prayer among Christians. Certainly in public, realizing the fallen human condition, modesty must be preserved. But in private, when alone with God, we might present ourselves naked in the presence of the Holy One. Naked meditation and prayer invites us to be vulnerable and open to the possibility of transformation by being in the presence of God with no barriers. (For reasons of comfort this may not be for everybody.)

Believing that the God who created, redeemed, and sanctifies you accepts you as his child, in the privacy of your own place of Bible reading, meditation, and prayer (most likely in your home), you might try just being in the presence of God completely naked. Being naked in God’s presence might prove or reinforce what you honestly believe about yourself and your relationship to God.

I offer here a simple morning prayer office in which one might pray naked upon arising in the morning.  The attitudes of prayer can be embodied through the use of different postures.

Embodied Prayer Form: Order for Morning Prayer

“O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:15).
“Morning Worship” by Australia Catholic artist Michael James O’Hanlon
yoga forward bend
“Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.” 
It is customary to bow when glorifying the name of the Holy Trinity.

Psalms or verses from psalms might be prayed, such as:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” – (Psalm 103:1)
“O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you.” – Psalm 63:1
naked man in meditation
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, he has come to his people and set them free” (Luke 1:68). The morning canticle has been the Benedictus, the Song of Zachariah.
man meditating
“Our Father, who art in heaven..”.

Might nakedness contribute to the enrichment of your spiritual discipline or is it something you are so unused to that it would be a distraction? Could the sheer fact of being naked before God be the focus of your meditation? If you practice meditation or have devotions with a partner (a spouse or a good friend), can you be naked together in the presence of God in Christian fellowship or is this crossing a boundary for you?

This is as far as I’m going to go with this. You will have to try it to discern what it means for you and whether it adds to your prayer life. I can only attest that when I’ve tried it the practice does give me a sense of both vulnerability and openness, and both of those feelings are of great spiritual value. I’d be happy to receive comments from any who have practiced actual nakedness before God. These can be posted in the comments section below this article.

Pastor Frank Senn

Chiara Praying by Lance Pressi


  1. Comment by post author

    This comment came by email from a college student:
    “I found your blog while doing some google searching to find information about Christianity and yoga. Stumbled upon your blog from months back and continued checking on it!

    “On being naked before God, I don’t know that I have any feelings about it yet. I like being naked when I am alone. After a shower I love to be naked for a while before dressing, to let my body breathe and be exposed. I’ll have to see if I feel anything when trying to focus on the fact that I am naked before God.”

  2. Bob Rainis

    A very fine offering and gives pause for reflection. I too was brought up in a time when the guys swam together nude. Some had “issues” but soon learned to deal with them. Some did not. We in the USA have real “hang-ups” about our bodies. We are not comfortable with them ourselves and certainly not in the presence of others.
    Praying in the nude….happens in the shower perhaps. When I remember my Baptism, I am refreshed by the water and cleansed. I don’t practice yoga and have no desire to do so. But I do hear you…and perhaps it’s the time when we as pastors start baptizing naked infants.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Comment by post author

    I wrote back to the above university student correspondent and encouraged him to experiment with naked prayer. He wrote back:

    “My naked prayer is enjoyable when I do it, which hasn’t been often, but it is a nice, centering experience for me.”

  4. Glen

    I’m from a Native American tribe and yes, we do believe in God and we pray to Him when we go into a sweatlodge naked. We are gender separate at these ceremonies and I grew up with this practice and have always felt comfortable being nude with my male friends and relatives. We view this as a way of being humble before God. To us, being naked is truly equivalent to being honest– we have nothing to hide, literally. No one ever seems to be embarrassed or inhibited at the communal nudity we share.

  5. Richard

    I have practiced yoga, meditated and prayed naked at home. More often I wear shorts. I like the idea of being naked before God in that state of purity and vulnerability. But often I am distracted by the physical excitement of being naked. The openness of my genitals and the sexuality of it all. Not that that is bad, but it distracts from prayer, at least for me.

    • Ken Ely

      I’m adding this more for anyone currently reading this forum than for Richard, who may not come back to it.

      Nakedness is something I had to become accustomed to. I had to practice it and get used to it. At one time, I found being naked mostly sexually stimulating, even though I was alone. It still can be very sensual, as it should be, but nakedness only occasionally distracts me from prayer or meditation now. Distractions come, and they’re a terrible problem for me in prayer or meditation, but they are not usually sexual distractions.

      What if, during prayer and meditation, I do become sexual, aroused? That’s part of who I am. It’s how God created me; it’s God’s gift to me. I thank God for it. I praise Him for it. I offer it back to Him. I make it a focus for my prayer or my meditation until it passes (or until I become distracted). Then I move on.

  6. Martin Andrews

    I have been praying naked for 5 or more years. it does make me feel closer to my god and more real if you can understand what i mean. the fact i am naked like the day i was born and like all animals on this earth i believe i am more honest and open with my god and in no way is this sexual in any way. most of the time i am alone but some times i have prayed with others. some have been naked too but most not and that is their right to chose. i do also believe a prayer is stronger with the more who pray together so i would like to hear from any one in and around London who would like to pray together.

  7. Dear Sir:

    I had to take P.E. Class for three years in High School. The boys had a Locker room and the girls had one too. The only nakedness was when we had to shower before our next class. I was in the Boy Scouts. When we went swimming, we wore swim trunks. I even had to wear swim trunks in the U.S. Navy. I wasn’t raised to show my body. Did I miss out?

    I would like to be baptized naked as I was born if I didn’t draw any attention to myself, but I don’t know of any minister who would allow it.

    • Comment by post author

      Dear Mark, I guess you came along too late to enjoy swimming naked with the boys. The situation in the schools changed in the early 1970s. Getting baptized is related to church membership, and should only happen once. Different churches have different practices. The Orthodox would probably let you get baptized wearing underwear or a swim suit. Maybe even the Baptists, especially if it took place outdoors in a natural body of water or a pool. But you could certainly pray naked at home and see how you feel about that.

    • Ken Ely

      Yes, Mark, you missed out. The operative is ” I even HAD to wear trunks.” Swimming naked wasn’t forced upon us. Trunks were.
      Ken Ely

  8. Caipora

    The vintage photo that “reminds me of Boy Scout swimming nights at the YMCA” was published in LIFE Magazine, April 15, 1940, (https://books.google.com.br/books?id=uz8EAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover) on page 71. There’s an interview with photographer Eliot Elisofon on page 13 of the same issue. Your copy is likely derived from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s site (http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265358) , as LIFE slightly retouched the photo.

    • mrk222

      I continually have to inform people that the swimming pool pictured was at a “Boys Club” not a YMCA. It is not particularly important, except as to accurate representation

  9. Ken Ely

    I continually wonder why I like being naked. I have always enjoyed being without clothes, from childhood, really.

    I have a grandson who is now 8 and he still likes to be clothes-free at every opportunity. His parents are relaxed about nudity but I would not call them home nudists. Another daughter, married, calls herself a ‘home nudist’ but she doesn’t get much time to enjoy it or to model it to her two sons (age 1+ and 3+) because she is perpetually busy being a mom and wife.

    No one else in our extended family is comfortable naked. Some of the other grandkids were happy to be naked when they were younger but they have either assumed modesty or modesty has been thrust upon them. There is no consistency in our family attitudes toward our bodies. But then, we are a big family.

    To me, on an elementary level, it seems absurd that a human being should be embarrassed about looking like a human being. What else are we going to look like? We, as humans, are said to be the image of God. In what manner? Do I take that to mean that God is anthropomorphic and that He created men to duplicate his physical appearance? In an act of divine grace, He assumed human form in Christ and lived and died as a human. Moreover, human form has its analogies in all other mammals and, actually, all other forms of animal life, so I gather that God played upon a theme when it came to forms in His animal creation. But it becomes a chicken-and-egg question because there is the Trinity to be considered. One Person of the Trinity is the Man Jesus. And the Trinity has always existed, even before the World and before all the analogies to human form that are in it or have ever been in it.

    I believe our bodies are good. God said they were. He created them and chicken-and-egg notwithstanding, He lives in one. I believe that He was happy with Adam and Eve naked and, like a concerned parent, said, “Who told you that you’re naked?” when Adam expressed shame for being so.

    I also believe that the naked human body is both sexual and non-sexual, all at the same time and that the duality cannot be separated. We have all the organs necessary to maintain life in our bodies, and reproductive organs are part of the package. Reproductive organs don’t simply make new humans, they secrete hormones that are part of our entire internal and external ‘functions-and-behaviors’ make-up. Without genitals, we would be insufficient as humans. They are necessary and they are good and we should not be ashamed of them any more than we should be ashamed of collar bones.

    Shame: there’s the rub. Shame before God and shame before men: where did it come from? Well, from a lie, of course; and we wear that lie like an ermine cloak. But how dare we be ashamed of what God, Himself, designed and what form He inhabits in the Person of Christ! What arrogance! How prideful! Such Sin with a capital S!

    “Who told thee thou wast naked?” It was a rhetorical question and it went beyond nakedness. “Who told thee thou should’st be ashamed? What hast thou wrought that thou art ashamed, naked or cloaked?”

    As a man redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross, my part in that shame is blown to hell, where it came from. Redeemed, I can now return, without shame, to the state in which God created me and found me good: naked – physically, emotionally, psychologically, morally.

    My difficulty is not in standing before God naked, it is in appearing naked before men; for they would have me shamed for my nakedness with the shame that they would feel if they were naked before me. Gavin, in the Swimming Naked forum, hit upon a truth when he wrote that, in clothed company, the naked man or boy has the psychological advantage, the ‘moral high ground’, because he is there 100%, ‘all in’, nothing hidden; whereas the clothed, being partially hidden, can only be a percent of their true selves.

    Where is the way through? How do any of us that desire to do so live in the integrity of our bodies without offense being taken where we actually have given none?

  10. Jeff

    This is a very interesting topic. It’s true that many Americans associate nudity with sex. But some also associate it with punishment and being forced to appear semi-naked before authority figures. God is, of course, the ultimate authority. I can well understand why some people might not want to pray naked.

    A friend of mine remembers that, as a boy, when he got into trouble his parents wouldn’t say, “Johnny you’re going to get a spanking for this report card and for tracking mud into the house.” Instead they’d spread out a red t-shirt on his bed. When John saw the dreaded red t-shirt he knew that he was to undress completely, put the t-shirt on, and report to his mom and dad. He’d then be informed of his transgressions and a hand spanked would follow. After that he’d be given ten minutes of standing corner time again dressed in nothing but the t-shit. The t-shirt didn’t go down low enough to cover his back side or genitals. After corner time he’d be forgiven and complemented on what a brave boy he was and on how well he took his punishment. Only then could he get dressed.

    This strange “ritual” started when John was about 6 and continued until the age of about 14 or 15; well into puberty. You can bet that John did his best to stay out of trouble and keep his grades up. But as a result he developed an aversion to nudity. He also developed a permanent aversion to red t-shirts! I believe that, within reason, parents should have the right to spank. But fully naked or semi-nude spankings can have unintended consequences.

    • Comment by post author

      Jeff, Yes, public corporal punishment has usually involved some degree of nudity, if not total nakedness. It’s pretty certain, on the basis of known Roman practice, that Jesus was flogged and crucified completely naked. That knowledge might inspire some Christians to try praying naked in imitation of Christ.

      I must say, in response to your story, that some parents have found really creative ways to inculcate body shame in their children.

  11. Paul LeValley

    I recently published the only book on the Gymnosophists, those naked holy men Alexander the Great met in India. You can read how they influenced several Christian groups at http://www.thenakedtruthnaturists.com/Portals/0/1%20The%20Naked%20Truth%20Naturists_vol_19_Special%20Report_No_02.pdf.

    The book was printed in two sizes. Amazon currently lists only the one with too-fine print and missing pages. You can find the full-size book at http://www.paullevalley.com

  12. Bernard Harmse

    As a pastor myself and a nudist, I also always do my devotions nude and pray in the nude. Jesus said that we are not to be concerned about clothing or what to wear. Modesty in Greek has at its core meaning dressing down and not intimidating others through your clothing. So nude prayer speaks to modesty and vulnerability, and having nothing to hide and being genuine.
    Being naked with others is a matter of being vulnerable and allowing others to see your most private part, your genitals. It allows others into your most private being, and being genuine without pretenses. My friends always preferred me to be nude and they said there were no barriers. Clothing causes barriers, whereas nudity causes trust.
    I prefer being nude before God. He created my body and penis. He knows exactly what I look like, so I need not be shy or ashamed.

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