Prayer Postures

I was asked what postures are required when praying to God.  After looking at quite a few Bible commands and examples of prayer, I think that the posture is important only as it expresses or aids the person’s attitude toward God.  Wiersbe and Carson have summarized it well, so I give you their words…

Warren Wiersbe on Postures in Prayer

Warren W. Wiersbe Prayer: Basic Training (1988)

Posture is not important. Was our Lord kneeling or standing when he offered this prayer? We don’t know. All we do know is that He lifted up His eyes to heaven (see John 11:41). Most people bow their heads and close their eyes when they pray, but Jesus lifted His head and focused His eyes on heaven. Many people fold their hands when they pray, but I don’t find this practice anywhere in Scripture. In fact, the Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands, open to God, expecting to receive something! (Note 1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 28:2; and 1 Timothy 2:8.)

Many different prayer postures are recorded in the Bible, and all of them are acceptable. Some people bowed their knees when they prayed (Genesis 24:52; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Ephesians 3:14). When Jesus prayed inGethsemane, He began by bowing His knees (Luke 22:41); He then fell on His face as He talked to the Father (Matthew 26:39). It was Daniel’s practice to kneel when he prayed (Daniel 6:10), but King David sat when he talked to God about the promised kingdom (2 Samuel 7:18). Abraham stood when he interceded forSodom(Genesis 18:22). So there are many postures for prayer.

The important thing is the posture of the heart. It is much easier to bow the knees than to bow the heart in submission to God. While the outward posture can be evidence of the inward spiritual attitude, it is not always so. Again, the important thing is the posture of the heart.

D. A. Carson on Positions in Prayer

From D. A. Carson, Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World.

Abraham (Genesis 18:22) and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:26) prayed standing. The psalmist (95:6) exhorts the people to kneel like Solomon (1 Kings 8:54) or Daniel (Daniel 6:10). Elijah put his head between his knees (1 Kings 18:42). Abraham (Genesis 17:18), Eliezer (Genesis 24:52), Joshua (Joshua 5:13–15), Moses (Numbers 16:45) prostrated themselves (a posture adopted later by Jesus; see Matthew 26:39). Sometimes hands were lifted up (Psalms 63:4) or spread out, palms upward towards the Lord (Exodus 9:29; Isaiah 1:15).

But particular postures are not required, and a little traveling will quickly reveal a remarkable cultural diversity in postures and patterns for prayer. And God is not deceived by reverent postures that mask a callous or irreligious spirit (Isaiah 58:5)!

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