How can changing your posture intensify your prayer life?
Does our bodily posture affect the way we pray? Should we stand, sit, or kneel while we pray?
The answer is simple: prayer is not dependent on body positions.
God isn't focused on the external, but on the condition of our heart. Yet He’s created us to be a complete, unified whole—body, soul and spirit. All of our various components feed and affect all the others (ie: our sense of smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing). I am an avid baker. One of my most requested desserts is my peach cobbler; and over the years I have spent countless hours tweaking my recipe perfection every time I bake it. If I can do this for a dessert, how much more should I/you study the Word to see how our posture might intensify our praying?
While I have found laying prostrate as my favorite position, here are 8 simple yet powerful displays to honor God in prayer:
To bow is a physical expression of honor and allegiance. The action of bowing is associated with worship. Even just the bowing of our heads communicates to our mind that we’re addressing the One to whom we’ve pledged our complete loyalty. When the Lord came down in a cloud around Moses on Mount Sinai, "Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship" (Exod. 34:8). King David, centuries later, said, "As for me . . . I will bow down in reverence for You" (Ps. 5:7). Bowing is an appropriate posture of prayer.
Many other biblical references speak of dropping to our knees in prayer. Solomon’s monumental prayer at the dedication of the temple was given while he "knelt down in front of the entire congregation of Israel" (2 Chron. 6:13). Daniel, even at the risk of death for defying the king’s order against praying to anyone other than the king himself, continued kneeling three times a day at the open window of his home, "praying and giving thanks before his God" (Dan. 6:10). And one day, we’re told, "every knee will bow" before Christ—"in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Phil. 2:10)—even those who refused to kneel before Him. Kneeling is focused on supplication and adoration.
3. Lying Prostrate
Sometimes bowing our heads or bowing on our knees still doesn’t quite reflect the devotion we intend. When Ezra the priest gave an all-morning, public reading of the law to the returned exiles in Jerusalem, "they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground" (Neh. 8:6). Jesus, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane before His torture and death, "fell on His face and prayed" (Matt. 26:39). And when John later saw Him in His resurrected, glorified form — as described in the apostle’s Revelation on the island of Patmos — he admitted he "fell at His feet like a dead man," totally prostrate before the power of God (Rev. 1:17). Lying prostrate is often done in humility, recognizing the great mystery of God.
4. Lifted Hands
Many prayers from Scripture were made with uplifted hands. The idea of folding our hands, while meaningful, is actually more recent in history. But the Bible does talk about raising our hands—"the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering" (Ps. 141:2). Paul said, "I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension" (1 Tim. 2:8). Both Solomon and Ezra, whom we mentioned earlier, prayed while falling to their knees and lifting their hands—at the same time—a position of total, physical worship and praise.
5. Lifted Eyes
While closing our eyes is a good way of limiting distractions and maintaining focus in prayer, a common biblical expression was lifting the eyes toward heaven, like when Jesus "raised His eyes" before praying at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:41), or when "looking up to heaven" as He blessed the five loaves and two fish before multiplying them for the crowd of five thousand (Luke 9:16).
Beyond physical postures, what we do with our voices in prayer is also important. Sometimes the best thing we can do in prayer is be still and know that He is God, without saying a word (Ps. 46:10). When awed and amazed, one is often in silence. When Hannah prayed in anguish for God to give her a child, "she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard" (1 Sam. 1:13). No one could hear her silent prayer, but God heard and answered.
7. Lifted Voices
Along with lifted hands and lifted eyes, the Bible also exhorts us to lift our voices to the Lord in prayer. "Give ear to my voice when I call to You," David prayed (Ps. 141:1). "My voice rises to God, and He will hear me" (Ps. 77:1).
8. Crying Out
"Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud" (Ps. 55:17). This crying out is a frequent descriptor of prayers spoken in the Bible. Jesus, we’re told, during His life on the earth, "offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence" (Heb. 5:7). Various translations of the original words for crying out carry the idea of shrieking in pain, or making a sound like an animal in danger, or wailing with deep emotion of spirit. It’s intense and loud. Heavy and heartfelt. Nearly half of the times when John’s Revelation talks about words being spoken in heaven, they’re explicitly identified as a "loud voice"—20 times in its 22 chapters.
Again, posture isn’t everything. It’s not mandatory or specifically prescribed. However, have you ever given note to the prayers you've prayed while laying in bed, fighting not to go to sleep and those you've offered while deliberately kneeling, or raising our hands, or speaking aloud? What was the outcome?
Intensifying our prayer lives is simple and takes little to no effort actively using our body's. When we involve our bodies, such displays remind us that we are truly dependent on Him, that He is Lord over our lives and we worship Him because of it. We trust Him and truly worship Him.
If you're not using one of the prayer postures above, try incorporating one or more the next time you pray. It may feel strange early on, but stay at it and watch God meet you in that place.
Excerpted in part from The Battle Plan for Prayer trade book. © 2015 B&H Publishing Group.
For more information about La Tanya D. Walker, visit www.LATANYADWALKER.org. Also join La Tanya and Women Who War Global Prayer Network every Tuesday, at 7AM central standard time for Spiritual Awakening Prayer LIVE on Facebook.