The Apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 begins with the phrase: I kneel before the Father… I have been in a few churches that have a kneeler attached to every pew. I don’t see that often anymore and I wish we’d bring them back for I realize I don’t really know how to benefit from posturing my whole being when I pray.
Scripture has many references to kneeling or bending the knee. King Solomon knelt with his hand spread toward heaven when he prayed (1 Kings 8:54). The Israelites knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground when they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord (2 Chronicles 7:3). David calls his people to kneel and worship (Psalm 95:6-7). Daniel knelt three times a day and prayed to God (Daniel 6:10). Jesus himself knelt down and prayed (Luke 22:41). And Paul speaks of kneeling together as a congregation on the beach (Acts 21:5).
Kneeling is appropriate when we worship, to pay honor, or make a request. Kneeling speaks of humility, that one is able to humble herself and get down on a knee to ask a request. In our culture, guys still do this when asking a gal to marry them. In other cultures, kneeling is still practiced when giving honor to elders.
Then why am I uncomfortable with kneeling? Mostly because it reminds me of the beggars I saw in Indonesia. I didn’t like being asked for money, or being put in the position to say no or being a target of scams. To be honest, I dislike the thought of begging to God.
So I looked at various people who came to kneel before Jesus – the man with leprosy, a synagogue leader, a Canaanite woman, the rich young ruler, the mother of James and John. If these folks fell at my feet, I would implore them to get up. But Jesus does not. Jesus, because he is worthy of their honor and because he truly can grant their request, listens to their plea. With Jesus, they know he will help and there is no need to manipulate or control.
Sometimes I try to convince myself that I don’t need to kneel, because “I kneel in my heart”. And of course there can also be restrictions to kneeling depending on one’s health and setting, and this is not a required or magical posture. But why would I not want to make my body reflect what I am feeling in my heart? More likely, my body IS reflecting what is in my heart – nothing. No emotion, no praise, no reverence. How can I pray to my Father and not feel submission, or honor or even a desperation to plead with him? I suggest that true worship affects my whole person, including my body and thus demands bodily expression.
I realize now that I need to put myself in the position of these needy people at Jesus’ feet. I need to realize that without the cross, I am truly poverty stricken and thus begging to God is my appropriate response. If I am to get comfortable with this, I need to practice it. Will you join me?