Should I Feel Physical Sensations While Praying?

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Have you ever felt hot or cold while praying?  Or experienced goosebumps, a tingling feeling, chills, or warmth in your body as you prayed?

It’s not unusual to have these physical sensations in the midst of prayer but you may be curious as to what a physical experience has to do with a spiritual act.  If you experience a certain sensation does it mean the Holy Spirit is at work, or not?  What if you’ve never felt anything physical while praying–does that mean you’re not as spiritual or connected to God?

So, should you feel physical sensations like warmth, chills, tingling, coldness, or goosebumps while praying?

While you may have a bodily reaction in the midst of prayer, it’s not required to have a meaningful prayer time, nor does it mean you’re more spiritual.  It just means you had a physical sensation during a spiritual act and it’s not something you need to overthink. 

Having experienced some different sensations in prayer over the years, I can understand your interest and desire to learn more.  I invite you to explore our discussion of some physical reactions that may occur during prayer and keep an inquisitive mind as you read along.

Please, look up the scripture references and interact with the content here.  This is intended for you to help you grow in your relationship with God and in your practice of prayer.

While not every possible physical sensation is covered here, the most likely ones you may encounter are, so read along and keep learning!  Remember, our goal is to deepen our devotion to God and delight in his love for us!

What If I Get Goosebumps When I Pray?

Your body experiences goosebumps when we feel cold and our hair stands on end. We may get the “goosies” when we see a great artistic performance, like Jennifer Lopez does.  Or we may experience goosebumps when we hear a beautiful song, or when we experience strong emotions like fear, sadness, or joy.

Goosebumps are a natural physical reaction so it’s no surprise when we may feel them as we pray.  You may experience that “goosebump” feeling as a twinge or shivers.  When we pray, we are placing ourselves into a posture of greater awareness of God’s presence in our lives.

It should come as no surprise then, that while experiencing God’s presence, we have a strong emotional reaction that is manifested outwardly in our body through something like goosebumps or a brief shiver.  You may have even said out loud, “Whew, I just felt something as I prayed–my hair stood on end for a second!”

I have had several experiences like that when I’ve prayed, especially during a time of struggle or great joy.  Each time I had such physical sensations, I took it as a form of confirmation that God was present with me.  That’s a given, however, because God always keeps his promises.

Once I understood these sensations were a normal bodily function in response to compelling emotions, I stopped trying to make them happen, or seek them as some spiritual badge of honor.

But does having a physical sensation like this mean anything special spiritually?  Not particularly, but it can draw our attention more acutely to what’s happening with us at that moment.

The Bible says nothing about goosebumps specifically, or even chills generally.  It also does not make any connection to those sensations and prayer.  Yet, when we feel deeply, our body may react in physical ways, like with goosebumps, when we are very joyful or sad, or deeply moved.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalms 16.11, NIV).

So, if you “get the goosies” while praying at times, simply rejoice that your body is acting normally.  Continue praying to God, knowing that God is with you and hears your prayers, whether you have a physical sensation or not.

What Does It Mean If I Feel Warmth in My Body When I Pray?

Not to be trite or cute, but what you may be experiencing could be as simple indigestion.  Or it could be reflux.

Or it could be something spiritual happening in a physically manifested manner.  Let’s take a deeper look and gain a further understanding of this physical sensation as it relates to prayer.

Given how often the Bible mentions fire or heat with God, it’s not unusual for us to think something major is happening spiritually to us or through us if we feel warmth or heat while we pray.  To give just a few examples:

God is present in the fire on Mount Sinai.  God’s glory is seen in the fire. Fire and heat reveal truth, according to the Apostle Paul.  Jesus said the early disciples would be baptized with fire (but never alone). The first disciples gathered in the upper room and were filled with the Holy Spirit as seen tongues of fire.

The Psalmist felt warmth in his heart. God’s anger against sin and wrongdoing are pictured as burning heat, or hot anger. Even the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, felt his heart strangely warmed.

What can we take away from the brief overview of warmth and heat in relation to God?  It seems clear that, digestion problems aside, if you feel some type of warmth while you are praying, you may be experiencing a dear moment of closeness with God.

I encourage you to pay attention to what you were praying and what you may have heard God saying to you in those moments.  Rejoice in the experience and give thanks to God for what you physically felt as you prayed.  But, as I mention below, resist the temptation to make this special experience a requirement for your prayer time.

There are many very devoted followers of God who haven’t experienced a warmth as they’ve prayed so just because you have does not make you better than someone else.  It may very well be that, since God knows you better than you know yourself, he gave you a physical sensation to help you grow in your faith that someone else may not need.

So continue to pray, whether you have felt warmth or not.  Keep seeking God with  all you are, especially in prayer.

Should I Feel Cold As I Pray?

So, if experiencing warmth or heat is a fairly clear sign that God is noticeably present in your prayer time, does that mean that experiencing cold means God is absent?  I don’t believe so, but let’s look further into this particular aspect of prayer and physical sensations.

Since God created the seasons and weather, it should be obvious that we will feel different temperatures in our body–hot, cold, warm, chilly, and even moderate temperatures.  Yet, some people can’t feel hot and some can’t feel cold. We can assume that when our body feels cold, then we are experiencing a normal reaction to temperature change.

But what about when you’re praying and you suddenly feel cold?  This wouldn’t be because of some external factor like the wind blowing on you or you’re doused with cold water, etc.  What we’re talking about here is not like the goosebumps or shivers mentioned above, but an actual cold feeling as you pray.

The Apostle Paul felt cold. Jacob also experienced cold. God has said he would rather people be hot or cold and not merely lukewarm. And the wise writer of Proverbs states cold water is good. So we can see that cold temperature in and of itself is not necessarily bad or negative.  Feeling cold is natural and a regular aspect of life.

Yet, when we pray we tend to think of God as being “warm and inviting, like a campfire on a cold night.” We don’t typically associate God’s presence with cold, because “cold” carries the connotation of distant, dying, frozen, not alive, or alone.

So, what if we feel cold when we pray?  Should we be alarmed?  We should always be attentive of our body when we pray, and aware of what’s happening inside us and around us.  After all, we are delving into a closer relationship with God and his presence.

Since the Bible doesn’t give any real clear guidance on this specifically, it would be wise to look at what you were feeling when you felt the coldness.  What exactly were you praying about when you had the sensation?  Were you feeling terrified or very afraid?  When we have a fight-or-flight reaction, our blood constricts, which can leave us feeling cold.  Depending on what you’re praying for, it may be a physical sensation of anxiety.  We can gain strength as we remember:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7, NIV).

Feeling cold as you pray is not likely to be a regular occurrence, so pay close attention to the circumstances when it happens, and explore the emotions you had in the moment.  That will provide you with good guidance.

What If I Feel A Tingling As I Pray?

You may have experienced a tingling sensation in your body when you have prayed.  Or maybe you have heard of someone talking about feeling “pins and needles” experience while praying.

You may get a tingling feeling if you are dehydrated. You may get tingling or numbness if you have diabetes or a pinched nerve. But what about while you are praying?  Is this physical sensation something to pay attention to?

It may be as simple as you are in a physical posture that is pinching a nerve or your hand or foot has “gone to sleep.”  Try altering how you are sitting or standing or kneeling.

The Bible doesn’t speak to this physical manifestation so we don’t have guidance there.  People typically mention feeling tingles in their hands or feet in prayer and these feelings can be a source of comfort as we pray.  Yet we don’t want to attach ourselves to the “feelings” we experience from time to time in prayer because the sensations may not always be present.

Let me give you an example.

When I was a younger man and desperately seeking after God, I found myself in my car in my driveway.  The car was off and it was nighttime.  I was weeping and crying out to God, eagerly wanting guidance.  I asked God to show a direction and I flipped through my Bible until I came to a resting spot and placed my finger on the scripture.  It was dark so I couldn’t see where I had randomly pointed my finger.

I turned on the overhead light in my car and my eyes saw this verse, at the same time the tip of my nose was tingling:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2.14, NIV).

I asked my pastor about what I had experienced and he told me that since my nose was in front of me and sticking out from my face, the tingling was if God was directing me, pointing me in a direction.  The verse was a scriptural confirmation of the direction.  It wasn’t soon after that I applied to go to seminary.  And I have spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere I have gone.

Now, that was a specific occurrence.  I’ve never had that tingling feeling at all ever again, so I’m glad I didn’t make that a major pillar of how I approach prayer.  The physical sensation was something that happened in a specific circumstance to help me in a time of need–an outward sign of an inward spiritual movement.  But I could have easily made that a goal of every prayer time and I would have been soundly disappointed.

We pray to be in relationship with God, and to continue to grow in our relationship with God, not to obtain physical sensations.  So, if you feel a tingle while praying, acknowledge it, and ask God for further direction and guidance around the circumstance in which you felt it.

Final Thoughts

While it’s easy to get caught up in physical sensations that may happen to us when we pray, we can’t let ourselves make those feelings an idol we bow down to and require of God or of our prayer time. Nor we can conflate physical sensations with something like prayer language or speaking tongues.

An idol doesn’t have to be a physical statue or image–it can be anything that seeks to take the place of God himself.  Focusing on the sensations we experience in prayer, rather than the Spirit of God, can be a snare for us.

“They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them” (Psalms 106.36, NIV).

It would be foolish to think, “Well, I felt a warmth last week when I prayed and if I don’t feel that again then something’s wrong with me, or God is withholding his presence from me.”  Or, “I felt goosebumps when I prayed for my friend who was so sick and she got better the next day, so that means the Holy Spirit was healing her through me.  Whenever I feel goosebumps when I pray, I know that person will be healed.”

Physical sensations, whether that’s a feeling of warmth in your stomach, chills on your neck, tingling in your hands, or a hotness in your chest, are just that–physical.  Just because they may happen from time to time in the midst of your prayer time does not necessarily transform those physical reactions into spiritual truths upon which to found your understanding of prayer.

Nor does it follow that you are “more spiritual” or “closer to God” if you happen to experience a physical sensation during prayer and someone else does not.  Have you considered that God granted you a physical feeling to bring you along further in the faith because you don’t yet have the spiritual maturity to trust God in the absence of feelings?  We never want to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, because we’re all equal in the sight of God through Jesus Christ.

Your prayer time is a sweet time of fellowship with your Creator, of unloading your burdens upon the Rock and Salvation,  and rejoicing with confidence in the presence of God.  Let it grow and deepen as you listen for the Spirit’s whisper.  May your prayer time be filled with expectancy as to what God will show you and what he will ask of you.  Approach your prayer time with God as moments to be filled with meaning and purpose.

If you happen to experience a physical sensation as you pray, then accept it as is and keep on praying.  You need not obsess about it or strive to seek to have it happen each time you pray.  Just keep focusing on Jesus, and keep praying, loving God more and more each day as you do.

I hope you have felt reading this article was worth your time.  I also hope you learned more about prayer and what part physical sensations may play in prayer.

This site, and these articles are intended to help you grow closer to God though prayer.  So, whether you are praying the prayers, learning about aspects of prayer, or just exploring what prayer is, we trust you will return to this site.  Would you also share this site with your friends?  We welcome your comments and prayer requests down below.

5 thoughts on “Should I Feel Physical Sensations While Praying?”

  1. Daniel Corbeil

    This is actually the first time I’ve looked into why I feel certain things when I pray. And interestingly the only reason I decided to write a comment here is because what I feel in prayer does not appear to be mentioned here on the list and thought I’d add something different that perhaps others have experienced.
    I’m guessing some people would refer to me as a devout Catholic and have always been drawn to God despite many trials and hardships life has thrown at me. I’ve had many powerful experiences in my life that I readily find myself sharing with others who apparently are in need of hearing it at the time, in fact so much so that many have suggested I write a book on my experiences to encourage others and though I was reluctant for many years, it seems that God is steering me in that direction.
    Along with these experiences, I have noticed over the years an unusual pattern of sensations when I pray for others or for myself. At first I thought it was just because I was too deep in prayer and my mind was perhaps reacting to the emotion of the moment and resulted physically. But I noticed a pattern when I prayed fervently for someone exactly at the same moment every time at the end of the prayer. I would describe it similar to when you step into an elevator and it starts to go up or down and you get that strange physical movement sensation that something just happened and you sensed it though slight at times.
    So I noticed that as soon as I finished praying for someone, the moment I asked God to help or bless them in their need ( always exactly at that time) I felt like something left my head (like the elevator feeling or a tiny burst of energy ) and went outward and would actually feel slightly dizzy very briefly, almost as if I could feel the prayer itself going towards the individual being prayed for. And surprisingly, if praying for myself I feel the opposite effect ( a feeling of something coming in like that elevator feeling). And yes I have seen miraculous and extraordinary answers to prayer coming from this.
    Sharing this once with a pastor who suggested I read a book by saints who experienced such things helped me see that it simply might be God’s way of showing me my prayers are actually heard and can perhaps sense them help others. Though I don’t often tell people I feel this , I feel more confident in telling them that I believe that God has heard them and is doing something. I can imagine that my sharing this may not appeal to all who read it and is quite understandable but on the other hand if someone else is experiencing this or something similar and can help us in our faith walk , why not share it.

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