by Stephanie H.
We can read about it in classic literature, we see it in paintings and other art in the church, even modern comics and movies that feature little children show little pajama-ed knees bent in prayer, sometimes with teddy bears sharing the same posture.
So why do we kneel to pray?
Sure, we don’t always have to kneel to talk to the Lord. If we’re to pray without ceasing, we’re going to have to stand up and walk around at the same time! So why is it so traditional to kneel while praying?
Consider this parable from Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, on a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Now, don’t think that the only way to approach the Lord in prayer is to crawl up in agony because of all of your sins. Look at the contrasted postures of these two men. The one was praying “thus to himself” (an interesting choice of words), thanking God for how great he himself was, but talking of himself more than anything. If this were a conversation with the Lord, what would the Pharisee expect Him to say? Meanwhile, the tax-gatherer begs God to act on His promise to be merciful to the repentant. He is humble, and knows that the Lord is the one with the power to be merciful, rather than believing, like the Pharisee, that he is the one who can make himself good enough to talk to God. We don’t earn the privilege to talk to God by being important enough for His attention. No one could ever be important enough to get the attention of an eternal God. We can best approach Him in prayer when we realize that He is willing to come down to listen to people that will never really be worth anything all by themselves.
Have you ever tried to make a business deal with God?
“Dear Lord, I would really like to have this, and here is what I would do for You if You let me…” or “Dear Lord, my friend needs help, and here are all the reasons they deserve the best…”
They are sincere prayers, but when I pray this way, it always leaves me anxious, wondering if I have said the right things in the right way to convince God that it really would be in His best interest to listen. Sounds rather like the Pharisee again, doesn’t it? It is so easy to imagine that prayer gives me the power to tap into God’s attention and favor if I can just say the right things.
I teach at a small Christian school, and one of my favorite portions of our morning prayers reminded me recently of the true posture of prayer. Every person that is able kneels on one knee as the Great Commission is read:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” ~Matthew 28:18-20
What are those first words? “All power is given unto me…”
Jesus is the one who has all power in heaven and in earth. Because of that, He’s given us a job to do. It isn’t a project we are left to figure out on our own, execute on our own, and then hope that it is good enough for His liking. “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
If your reading this, I’m guessing the world hasn’t ended. That means that the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is present with you, and eager to show you the work that He has prepared for you to do.
Imagine a good and honorable king, at war with a vicious enemy. At the moment, his wise eyes are surveying little figures on a mapped table that represent the movements of his troops and the enemy’s. A knight rushes in and kneels before hastily making his petition:
“Sire, several of your men have been captured, and are being held in the enemy’s fortress.”
“Sire, the battalion on the northern front is desperate for supplies.”
“Sire, the enemy is spreading lies that are crippling morale, and causing many of your troops to lose hope.”
What is this knight expecting to hear? An order. Of course, he will eagerly watch to see how his king will respond to this news. If he is a young knight, he may worry when his king acknowledges the need and dismisses him, or when his king gives him an order that does not make sense, but the king is wise and careful. His plans have far-reaching results beyond any short term solutions his young knights may offer.
Our prayer is when we come into the presence of the King, remember that the battle is His, and spend time in His presence, to learn the depth of integrity of His character, and be involved in His will in whatever way He chooses.
Now, the effectiveness of our prayers do not rely on us literally kneeling, or imagining kings and knights and battles when we pray, but it has been something that has really helped me in my prayers lately. The more time that I spend in prayer and in the Word, the more I come to trust the Lord with some things. Even so, it is very easy for me to work myself up into distraction as I try to pray in such a way to earn immediate results. When that happens, one of the quickest ways out of that state of worry…
Surrender my plans.
Kneel before the throne.