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The Power of Kneeling in Prayer
When I was in college, our campus university invited us to take a different approach to prayer. So, with awkward glances from side to side and shifts in the pews, each student was asked to change their stance and ask God to open their heart.
Fumbling with my hands, I hurried off the cool pew and onto the floor. Then, placing my interlaced fingers where I had been sitting, I sat and kneeled at the Father’s feet. Looking around me, I was shocked to see the same thing. Through trembling eyes and glassy faces, arms were lifted all over the sanctuary. I swore I heard chains breaking that day.
The Tradition of Kneeling in Prayer
While I was not aware of the tradition of kneeling in prayer or changing my posture, I know that the moment I lift my hands, kneel on my knees, or change my stance, something within me is different.
Traced back to Biblical roots and beyond, kneeling was first seen at the introduction of kings, queens, and those of higher positions. It can be traced to Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and any primary form of religion. When we talk about kneeling in this context, however, I refer to the worship and adoration of the one true King, Jesus Christ. Even Jesus Himself kneeled to the Father (Matthew 6; Luke 11).
Historically, kneeling in prayer was a sign of honor, duty, and respect to the one you were kneeling in front of. To bow down is to show submission and essentially confession of repentance when we bow before the Lord. From Tim Tebow to those in the Gospels, taking a knee was culturally expected and required. The Hebrew word for kneeling in prayer can be translated to mean “bow down” or “worship.”
Do Christians Still Kneel and Pray?
Although it is not necessarily mandatory to kneel every time you worship the Lord today, kneeling is still seen as a sign of respect, honor, and submission to the one you are kneeling. Not only does it change your posture, but it aligns your heart in total commitment to the Lord.
When Matthew 6:5-6 writes the following, Jesus emphasis is not on kneeling of the knees per se, but a kneeling of the heart.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6, NIV).
Similarly, Psalm 95:6 of the ESV notes, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6, ESV)! But kneeling is just one of many ways to worship our Creator. People may kneel, lift their hands, or make a goal post-stance position today, but what matters most is the condition of your heart while worshipping in those ways.
Why Posture Matters in Prayer
Scripture tells us in Matthew 6:21 of the NIV, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV). So does your posture in prayer, rather that be kneeling, sitting, or lifting your hands, matter? Absolutely!
Kneeling, let alone any posture you choose to worship the Lord, matters because it is an attitude and affirmation of the heart. Posture matters in any conversation.
If you were talking to your best friend, but they were scrolling on their phone and half-listening, you wouldn’t feel valued, right? God is the same way. When we submit the posture of our hearts to Him, He not only sees the posture of our bodies but what is on the inside.
Two Ways Kneeling in Prayer Is Powerful
Today, it is essential to realize that kneeling in prayer is powerful because it aligns the posture of our hearts, but it also focuses our eyes on Jesus. When we take a bow, lift our hands, or close our eyes, we are showing respect to the one who deserves it most. As a result, our eyes are focused on Him. We don’t need to look at our phones and contact lists for comfort; we need to look to Him!
More than a posture of our heart and a focus on His will, Jesus asks us to give Him the utmost respect, honor, and diligence no matter the physical posture we possess. While raising your heads or bowing down might look spiritual, it means nothing if your heart is far from Him.
Pray with me:
When I go to you in prayer, Lord, let my body reflect a humble position that aligns with my heart. If I am lifting my hands, I pray that my heart is lifted as well. Whether I am sitting, kneeling, standing, jumping up and down, laughing, crying, working, or praying, let every stature show fear and adoration of you. “For the fear (honor, respect, bowing down) of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm” (Proverbs 19:23, ESV). We love you, Lord, and long to love you more. Amen.