How, then, should we pray?
It seems we like to argue about anything in the church. You’ll even find multiple dogmatic opinions about what posture we should take when we pray.
Someone has vividly expressed this in a humorous little poem …
“‘The proper way for man to pray’ said Deacon Lemuel Keyes;
‘The only proper attitude is down upon his knees.’
‘Nay, I should say the way to pray,’ said Reverend Doctor Wise,
‘Is standing straight with outstretched arms with rapt and upturned eyes.’
‘Oh no, no, no,’ said Elder Snow, ‘such posture is too proud.’
‘A man should pray with eyes fast-closed and head contritely bowed.’
‘It seems to me his hands should be austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing to the ground,’ said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
‘Last year I fell in Hodgkin’s well headfirst,’ said Cyril Brown.
‘With both my heels a-stickin’ up, my head a-pointing down;
And I done prayed right then and there; best prayer I ever said,
The prayin-est prayer I ever prayed, a-standin’ on my head.'”
The fact is, effective prayer can be experienced in a variety of postures. Victor Hugo once said, “There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.”
Prayer is conversation with God, and as in conversing with anyone, our physical posture is a personal expression of what we trying to communicate. There are times our prayers are parades of praise for our God; other times we’re making supplication for others, or we’re seeking help for ourselves. Sometimes, it’s a time for talking to our best friend. Because what we convey to God is different each time we pray, mixing up our postures makes for a more natural and authentic communication with God.
Following are five basic postures we see people in the Bible take when praying that we can include as different postures for our own prayers:
Sitting is probably the most common posture practiced in prayer. But even then, our posture in that position can vary greatly. Some sit with head bowed and eyes closed; others with face toward heaven and hands raised. Some people pull up an empty chair and pray as if Jesus is sitting there and they’re having a conversation with Him, speak audibly as if the Lord were sitting in the empty chair.
Standing is another option for praying. Again, there are a variety of postures in this position as well, whether head is bowed or raised, eyes are closed or open. Often when people pray standing they feel inclined to lift their hands toward heaven in a more personal expression of adoration, pleading, or whatever their conversation may be.
One of my favorite postures for prayer is that of walking. I enjoy having a conversation with God while taking a walk, whether it’s while hiking a trail, strolling along city sidewalks, or lingering down a sandy beach. Praying while walking, for me, becomes a very personal exchange of conversation between my Creator and me. The posture lends itself to a deeper authenticity, as if I was sharing personal time with my best friend.
Kneeling is an expression of humbling ourselves before God. This posture helps us to bring ourselves low before the Lord and exalt Him.
One of the least practiced postures for prayer in the Western world is that of prostrating oneself on the ground before the Lord. Of all the postures for prayer, this most expresses a surrender, yielding, and worship before our God.
Mixing these postures to match the messages of our prayers helps us to further communicate to God our thoughts and heart before Him. Adding postures you don’t usually practice could help freshen and deepen your prayer life. I encourage you to add some of these postures to your time of prayer and see if it doesn’t help you in drawing close to God.