The Posture of Prayer

Praying Together
April 1, 2021
Paul Hamline

When you saw this title, you might have been tempted to think, “Why would anyone write an article on the posture of prayer?” Is one’s posture in prayer important and is there any biblical support for a posture in prayer? The Bible does talk about posture in prayer. In Daniel 6:10 we read, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” Jesus actually gave us some insight into the posture of prayer while He lived here on the earth. In Matthew 26 Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane for the purpose of prayer and in verse 39 we read, “And He went a little beyond them, (Peter, James and John) and fell on His face and prayed.”  Jesus prostrated Himself and prayed. In Luke 18 we see the prayer posture of the tax collector and the Pharisee. The scripture records that the tax collector “was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast.” In verse 11 “The Pharisee (spiritual leader of the day) stood and was praying.” In Matthew 6:5-9 exhorts us to not imitate the hypocrites when we pray. He mentions that when they pray, “they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners.” This passage raises another good topic regarding prayer and that is where should we pray. I will leave that topic to another time.

As you have looked at these passages, while seeing various postures of prayer, I trust you have been able to discern that there is a correct and biblical posture for praying. It has nothing to do with your physical posture but the posture of your heart. Our physical posture can be a visible demonstration of the state of our heart which is of first importance. Reflecting on the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, would the contrast be between “standing” and “not lifting one’s eyes” or is there something else being taught here? The answer is obvious. The tax collector was humble in heart. He was aware of his unworthiness, his humanity, the holiness of God, and the Godness of God.  The tax collector’s heart was humbled before God. The Pharisee’s sin was not that he stood while he prayed but rather that his heart stood in arrogance, pride and self-confidence as he approached God.  As you read the Pharisee’s prayer, “I thank You that I am not like other people; swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week;  I pay tithes of all that I get.” Are you picking up on the arrogance, pride, and self-confidence which reflects the posture of the Pharisee’s heart?

There is another posture of the heart in prayer that we must not overlook.  Paul said in I Timothy 2:8, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands.”  Again, the emphasis here is not on the physical posture of prayer but rather the posture of the heart in prayer.  Paul is calling on men to pray with “holy hands.”  Paul is talking about a posture of prayer characterized by a holy heart or holy life.

In Luke 11 we find Jesus praying.  It must have been a powerful example of a humble and pure heart engaged in prayer. The Scripture says, “After He (Jesus) had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”  Jesus said,

“When you pray, say, Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
This is a prayer exemplifying a heart bowed in humility and purity. 
Beloved, go and do likewise!