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Christian Pilgrim

 

108. Posture in Prayer



Standing:

Standing is ordinarily the proper posture for prayer in a public place:

1 Kings 8:14 - "And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood)."

2 Chronicles 6:3 - "And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood."

2 Chronicles 7:6 - "And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood."

2 Chronicles 20:5 - "And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,"

2 Chronicles 20:13 - "And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children."

Nehemiah 8:5-7 - "And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place."

Nehemiah 9:5 - "Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise."

Mark 11:25 - "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

Luke 18:11-13 - "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."


Prostration:

Falling down is also an acceptable posture, but this seems to be for particular occasions rather than ordinary public prayer:

Theophanies:

Joshua 5:14 - "And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?"

Revelation 1:17 - "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last."


Particular times of public humiliation:

Joshua 7:6 - "And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads."


Private prayer:

Job 1:20 - "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped."


In the final state (in more direct communion with God c.f. Theophanies):

Psalm 72:11 - "Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him."

Revelation 4:10 - "The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying..."


Note much false worship is also characterised by prostration (eg. Islam):

Isaiah 44:19 - "And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?"

Isaiah 45:14 - "Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God."

Isaiah 46:6 - "They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship."

Daniel 3:5,10,15 - "That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up... Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image... Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"

Matthew 4:9 - "And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."


Kneeling:

Examples of the leader kneeling in public prayer but the congregation still standing:

1 Kings 8:54,55 - "And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice."

2 Chronicles 6:12,13 - "And he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands: for Solomon had made a brasen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven." Note Solomon knelt, but the congregation still stood.

Ezra 9:5 - "And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God."


Use of kneeling, not in formal public worship, but either in private or with others:

Acts 7:60 - "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."

Acts 9:40 - "But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up."

Acts 20:36 - "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all."

Acts 21:5 - "And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed."


Sitting:

Sitting for prayer is nowhere allowed is Scripture. It is grossly irreverent.


Objections:

(1.) Exodus 17:12 - "But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."

Moses was compelled to sit because of exhaustion. Similarly, it is not wrong to allow the infirm and disabled to sit for prayer.


(2.) 2 Samuel 7:18 - "Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?"

But the word for "sat" means "remained tarried," i.e. it does not refer to posture:

c.f. Genesis 24:55 - "And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go."

c.f. Genesis 29:19 - "And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me."


(3.) But is not Christ sitting at the right hand of God making intercession for us? No:

Romans 8:34 - "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."

Hebrews 7:25 - "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."

There is no mention of posture here.


In terms of His work being finished, He is said to be "sat down":

Hebrews 1:3 - "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high"

Hebrews 1:13 - "But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?"

Hebrews 10:12 - "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God"


In terms of His intercession, He is said to be still standing and active:

Psalm 109:31 - "For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul."

Hebrews 12:2 - "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."