Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why I Kneel

I've been doing it for years at bedtime with my kids. I've been doing it other places for about the last year and a half. At home, at church during Bible class and worship and committee meetings, even occasionally at a restaurant before a meal.

It's awkward. My knees complain about it. I usually only go down on one knee, since it was injured several years ago and doesn't always submit to the "unbend" request and I need the other one to get back up.

I'm not really sure what started it. I had been doing some self-study about prayer, and began noticing how many good people in scripture knelt to pray: from Ezra to Daniel, to Jesus Himself, to Stephen while being stoned, to Peter, to Paul, to the disciples (including their wives and children) on a beach to send Paul off for the last time with prayer.

I also caught mentions of it with regard to people in the Bible when appearing before their kings and masters.

Then I began to notice how many people knelt when they encountered Jesus with a heart-wrenching need or a word of praise: a man possessed by a legion of demons; a leper; a ruler whose daughter had just died; a rich young ruler; the apostle Peter.

And, while - throughout scripture - good-hearted people pray while standing (Hannah; various leaders of Israel; the sinner who stood and prayed at a distance), for one reason or another I have tended to associate the practice with the Pharisee who stood praying to be seen.

I don't kneel to be seen. I kneel out of respect for God, for His Son, for His Spirit.

Something my friend Bob McClanahan said twenty years ago about piloting a plane has long seemed relevant: "Your altitude has a lot of effect on your attitude." While he was talking about roll, pitch and yaw - and the fact that a pilot is more keenly aware of them when she/he's closer to the ground - I've found that my altitude has had an effect on my attitude in prayer too.

I don't know whether kneeling is a right or wrong way to pray. God loves us, and He listens. Jesus bears the message to Him. His Spirit groans for us when we lack the words.

Kneeling in prayer often feels especially right for me. When my knees give consent, so do I.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
~ Ephesians 3:14-21

9 comments:

jettybetty said...

Keith,
I totally agree with what you say here--I have blogged about it myself!

However, you are bolder than me--I still don't do in public worship very much, but I would love to. I think it might be distracting--I don't want anyone to focus on me.

In my small group Bible study however, everyone knows how I feel and they usually give me time to "get into position". In private, it's wonderful!

Perhaps--it time this will change and I won't feel so obvious!

JB

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I saw my dad, many a time, kneeling down to pray in front of the front pew of our worship service (most of the time leading singing) when I was a child and even later, when I was older. But, that practice seems to have gone the way of dressing up for worship (which I still find to be, although a lot of "work" and way "out of style" a fitting way to acknowledge our reverence for the Lord) and a good many other things.

Your analogy of "altitude and attitude" is just great! How fitting, I think. And I think we would do well to add kneeling benches to our church pews (although WE just have individual chairs which can be moved all around, which is good, too, and in a lot of ways better than pews).

In many cultures (I've seen pictures) people have (at least in the past) kneeling benches at home! Wow! That I find to be so powerful and awesome. Not that I can get down on my knees any more, either! But, if the thought counts, I'm there with you and think it's definitely "a" right thing to do, if not "the" right thing.

PatrickMead said...

The story is told of a rabbi who was asked by his students which posture is the best to use for prayer; which one pleases God and helps us concentrate our spirits. He replied that when he was a small boy he fell down a well. "The best praying I have ever done was when I was standing on my head."

At Rochester Church we encourage people to assume whatever posture they feel best matches their response to God during a song or prayer. Few take advantage to shift, but it's early days. Thanks for the post, Keith!

DJG said...

One night in my small prayer group our chairs were so far apart that we could not complete our circle of hand-holding for our prayer... I got on my knees to reach the others as I prayed....Never have I "felt" the presence of the Spirit while praying publicily as I did that night.

You are really onto something.

I too remember my Papa leading prayer kneeling by the pew...another argument against big buildings that need microphones...but I digress.

David U said...

I remember seeing Jim Woodroof kneel while praying at the College church once, how impactful it was!

Several years later I heard him start off a class by using this as his first sentence "We are not known for being a praying people".
WOW! He went on to encourage us to be on our knees more.

Thanks for your example, Keith!

DU

Steve Duer said...

Our fellowship has spent more time discussing if it okay to be raising hands and clapping when we have ignored the need to be in a submissive posture towards God. Thanks for the post.

Serena Voss said...

As a child, I remember our minister, Tom Yoakum, kneeling when someone prayed. I have on rare occasions seen people kneel during public prayer when I have visited other congregations while traveling. In our prayer room, our small group kneels, sits, lies prostrate and stands. Thanks for the post.

Greg Morris said...

I've not kneeled in public prayer often. I've seen others do it. I think we should all do what the Spirit leads us to during our prayer times, both public and private - whether it be kneel, stand, sit, lie face down, hold hands, eyes open or eyes closed - instead of doing what's 'comfortable', we (or at least I) would be well served to follow the lead of the Spirit when it comes to our prayer posture.
Thanks for a great post. You have encouraged me to be more obedient to the Spirit's leading as I go to the Lord in prayer.
Thanks!
Greg <><

Brandon Moore said...

I kneel when I can, but at the same time I don't want it to be an attention grabber during a prayer. What I do in church, is mentally imagine myself kneeling before the father. Although I don't take the posture it is very humbling to me.