Years ago, I experimented with postures in prayer. Instead of bowing my head and closing my eyes, I lifted my eyes to heaven, as Jesus did (John 17:1). Instead of folding my hands, I lifted them, as the psalmist did (Psalm 141:2). Instead of praying silently, I spoke or cried or shouted to God. This audibility I had often found this in the psalms, but I had never taken it literally or seriously for myself. At first, it felt awkward—even distracting—but eventually my own body language was prompting my spirit to be more free and open and joyful in prayer. Form has a way of cuing us like that.
Now for some of you, it may seem legalistic to focus at all on posture in prayer—and if that was all that I was interested in, you would be correct. However, let me ask you a question or two. How often do you change your posture in prayer? And if not, why not? Routine itself can feel like a law. And if it feels like a law, who is the lawgiver?
In day-to-day life, when do you naturally bow your head and decline to look someone in the eye? Is it not when you are ashamed? This shame may be appropriate at times, as when Ezra mourned the sins of his people (Ezra 9:6), but should it be our normal posture in prayer? Body language is a language, so what are we communicating to God when we pray?
In Psalm 95, we are summoned to two postures of worship—the first is joyful and noisy; the second, reverent and submissive—and both are linked to truth about God. In the first, it is objective truth about the size of God, that He is “a great God” and “a great King above all gods” (v. 3). Literally, God is BIG. He owns everything from Death Valley to Mount Everest. He made the Atlantic and the Pacific and the continent in between, so that when we consider Him in contrast to all that humans worship, whether the gods of the East or the wealth of the West, He towers above them. He alone is God of gods.
For such a God, wimpy worship will not do.
In contrast, the posture of reverent submission results from knowing that this big God is our God. We “worship and bow down” and “kneel” because He is “our God and we are the people of His pasture” (vv. 6-7). This is the subjective side of worship, and it has its own appropriate posture, the posture of kneeling, whether with hands or head lifted up or not. Interestingly, the order makes sense. It is the bigness of God that makes His careful, attentiveness to sinful, little me so amazing! Finding such favor, should we not kneel and pour out grateful tears, as the forgiven prostitute did at the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:37-38)?
For such a God as ours, disobedience will not do.
Abruptly, once kneeling is mentioned, the psalm warns us: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (vv. 7-8). Ultimately, posture is nothing, if my life does not practice what my body is preaching. My body may kneel, but does my heart believe and obey? Is this not the best posture of worship?