When I was little, I remember praying with my head bowed, my eyes closed, and my hands together. Prayer, at that point, seemed tied to posture, as if a change in posture might lessen the validity of the prayer. At least, that’s how my little mind viewed the situation. As I grew, I learned that one could pray without folded hands, without a bowed head, and even without closed eyes. Such discoveries brought a newfound freedom to my prayer life, yet they also became opportunities for the flesh as I began to self-righteously look down on others who still maintained the posture of the early days of prayer. I thought that I’d grown beyond the need for such posture, that I’d grown so mature in my relationship with the Lord that posture and setting became concerns of the past. I’m beginning to reconsider the importance of posture, however.
While I believe that God does in fact hear our prayers regardless of the posture of our bodies, I’m not convinced that kneeling down with folded hands and a bowed head is as childish as I once thought. Paul, for instance, wrote, “I bow my knees before the Father” in prayer for the Ephesian church (Ephesians 3:14). James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the short letter after Hebrews, is remembered for having knees like those of a camel because of his many hours spent bowed in prayer for his people. These great men of faith both prayed on their knees. While I can’t assume they never prayed in any other position, neither can I ignore their decision to spend time on their knees.
So what does posture bring to prayer? And how might kneeling affect one’s relationship with the Lord? While I can’t speak from much experience, two thoughts come to mind.
1. Kneeling requires intentionality and time.
Life is busy. When facing the demands of work and school and church and family and friends, we can easily become stressed, feeling rushed from one task to another with little time for rest. Sadly, unless we give priority to time in prayer, we can diminish time spent in Bible study and prayer until we scan through a chapter on our phones and send up a short prayer for the day instead of truly engaging the Lord of hosts, our heavenly Father. Kneeling in prayer, however, requires that we set aside specific time to pray, for kneeling does not come naturally in our busy lives. When we kneel, we stop whatever else we could be doing to focus on one thing, on one Person. Incorporating kneeling into our prayer and Bible study time could dramatically improve our walks with the Lord, for kneeling devotes time specifically to focus on and to listen to him.
2. Kneeling deepens our sense of reverence.
Christians, through Christ, enjoy confident access to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16). We can lift up prayers to God as we go throughout our days in faith that he hears us. Such freedom of access, however, can lead to loss of reverence in our minds. We can forget that prayer brings us before the throne of the Almighty, that we speak to the eternal king and not simply to a fellow man. Kneeling humbles us before the Lord, however, reminding us of our place of need and of his place of power. To kneel before the Maker is to embrace a posture of submission, which helps us to better present our bodies as living sacrifices to him (Romans 12:1-2). If we incorporated kneeling into our prayer lives, I believe we could grow in the fear the Lord, a key component of biblical faith.
I write this post in part as a challenge to myself. While I occasionally kneel down in prayer, I don’t do it nearly as often as I probably should. I’m far more distracted and far less engaged than I ought to be when I pray. I pray, though, that God would deepen my awareness of his presence and power and of my need for him as I kneel before his throne. Although kneeling holds no magical ability to improve prayer, I hope that a change in my external posture will positively affect my internal posture before the Holy One. And I pray that we would all consider spending some intentional time on our knees today.
Thanks to Jeff Brunner for suggesting the idea for today’s post as well as for providing the title.