Pray Earnestly

by Timothy A. Southall

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Are we to pray only by standing or sitting? Are we restricted to only pray with our hands down by our sides or cupped below our face? When the church comes together, some look down upon others who pray earnestly in positions such as kneeling or with raised hands. Some feel uncomfortable kneeling, raising hands, bowing, etc. in prayer before others. The Bible clearly shows this was done by individuals and groups. While praying earnestly is more important than the position of prayer, our position while in prayer may show our attitude toward the LORD.

Kneeling. Solomon changed positions during prayer. He began by standing and ended his prayer on his knees (1 Kings 8:22-54; 2 Chronicles 6:12-13). King Hezekiah and everyone with him knelt down and worshiped after the burnt offerings were finished (2 Chronicles 29:29). Ezra fell on his knees and spread his hands out to the Lord (Ezra 9:4-7). The writer of Psalms tells us to kneel before the LORD (Psalm 95:6). When Daniel was told not to pray to his God, what did he do? Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed (Daniel 6:10). Jesus, being God's one and only Son (John 3:16), knelt down and prayed (Luke 22:41). Peter got on his knees and prayed and Tabitha was brought back from the dead (Acts 9:40). When Paul was leaving disciples to go to another city, he and the disciples knelt down and prayed (Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5). Sometimes we need to submit ourselves completely and kneel before the LORD. Someday it will be too late to pray, but all shall kneel and confess (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11).

Lifting Holy Hands. Solomon, Ezra, Job, David, and Jeremiah were among those who raised holy hands. Solomon lifted his hands during prayer (1 Kings 8:22; 1 Kings 8:54). In Solomon's prayer of dedication, he prayed that the Israelites' prayers would come from their hearts and that they would spread their hands toward the temple (1 Kings 8:22-61; 1 Kings 8:38). Many others also worshiped this way. Ezra spread his hands out to the LORD (Ezra 9:5). Then, when Ezra praised the LORD, all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" (Nehemiah 8:6). Zophar the Naamathite advised Job to devote his heart to God and spread his hands to God (Job 11:13). In Psalm, raising one's hands to God is mentioned several times (Psalm 28:2; Psalm 63:4; Psalm 77:2; Psalm 88:9; Psalm 119:48; Psalm 134:2; Psalm 141:2; Psalm 143:6). Jeremiah told the Israelites to plead and lift up their hands to the LORD (Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 3:41). Paul teaches, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (1 Timothy 2:8). As you can see, lifting one's hands to the Lord is biblical, if done in a manner suitable and worthy to the LORD.

Bowing. When Abraham's servant found Abraham's relatives in a distant land, he bowed and worshiped (Genesis 24:26-27). Abraham's servant did this on several occasions whenever he succeeded in his endeavors (Genesis 24:48, 52). When the Jews heard that the LORD was concerned about them and their misery, they bowed and worshiped the LORD (Exodus 4:30-31). Moses bowed and prayed for the LORD to forgive the wickedness and sin of his people (Exodus 34:8-9). After Ezra opened the book of the law of Moses, he praised the Lord. The people bowed and worshiped the LORD (Nehemiah 8:6). These people of the Old Testament humbled themselves to the LORD and earnestly sought Him.

Falling Face Down. Abraham fell face down when he came before God (Genesis 17:3-5). We, too, come before the LORD when we pray. After King David had sinned, he saw an angel of the LORD between heaven and earth with a drawn sword over Jerusalem. David and the elders fell face down. David asked God to spare the people and punish him and his family (1 Chronicles 21:16-17). Jesus feel face down when he prayed at Gethsemane for His Father to take the cup from Him. This was a time of great sorrow and suffering for Jesus (Matthew 26:39). In John's vision described in Revelation, the angels, elders, and the four living creatures fell down on their faces before the throne of God and worshiped Him (Revelation 7:11-12). As you can see, those who prayed in this manner had reason to, and it came from their hearts.

Pray Earnestly. If we earnestly seek the LORD in prayer, there is nothing wrong in kneeling, bowing, lying face down, and/or raising hands to the LORD in prayer. There are some important things we must remember when it comes to prayer and brothers and sisters in Christ. We must not judge an individual who doesn't conform to our modern traditions or expectations (Romans 14:9-13). Each individual must know that his or her actions speak louder than words (Matthew 6:5). Sometimes it is better to go into your room, close the door and pray (Matthew 6:6-8). We must earnestly seek the LORD, not the attention of others.

Copyright © 2000 Timothy A. Southall. All rights reserved.