When I was a lonely freshman at Baylor University, I found a wonderful church filled with even more wonderful people. I can’t remember how I actually found this church. I think it was because the advertisement on campus said they would come and pick up students. I was a new to the USA. My parents were in Papua New Guinea. I had no car and knew no one. I was graciously picked up by an amazing older couple who quickly saw my need and adopted me as their daughter. I soon learned that I was only one of many such “daughters and sons,” but that made them even more wonderful.
Soon I was having meals in their home and even staying overnight when I had no other place to go. And every morning, after breakfast, a short scripture was read and prayers were said for the day. And without fail, Mr. Weller got down on his knees as he committed his day to God. I think Mr. Weller and the Apostle Paul had a lot in common.
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’s 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?
What is keeping you from reflecting your heart attitude with your body posture?
How could you become more comfortable with kneeling or raising your hands when you pray?
Father God, I bow down in worship, I kneel before you, my Maker, for you are my God and I am one of your pasture, one of the flock under your care (Psalm 95:6–7). I kneel in humility and dependence begging you to hear and answer. Amen.
Scripture also speaks of other postures that we can use when we pray: Standing (Mark 11:25), lifting up our arms or hands (1 Timothy 2:8), looking up to heaven (Mark 6:41) and lying face down (Nehemiah 8:6).