And a leper came to Jesus beseeching Him, and kneeling said to Him, “If You will, You can make me clean.” Mark 1:40
Good morning Prayer Team!
Continuing our series on prayer, how to pray and why it is important to pray, today’s topic addresses the posture of prayer. From the outset, let me say again that the most important thing is that we pray—the how, when and what are secondary. We need to pray.
The preferred posture of prayer is standing. This is why we stand before the Lord in worship. We appear before the Lord in our fullness, so to speak. This is why we stand and do not kneel when we receive Communion. The preferred posture is to stand. When standing however, we are to bow our heads, as a sign of humility and obedience. In medieval times, one would bow before a king or queen. If God is our King, then when we address Him in prayer, we bow before Him. So when standing, a slight bow is appropriate.
Having said that, there is nothing wrong with sitting to pray. You can sit at a table or desk or on the side of your bed and bow your head. I’m frequently asked why we can’t cross our legs in church, and the reason for this is because that is too casual. If you are going to address the Lord in prayer while sitting, it should be in a state of attention, head bowed and sitting up straight. Crossing legs, slouching, stretching, arm hanging over the back of the chair, is not very respectful.
People generally fold their hands when they pray—you can interlock your fingers, of cross your palms flat and hold them in front of your waist when standing or place them in your lap when sitting. You can also raise your hands when praying. That is okay too. The Apocryphal book of Esdras offers:
Then I rose from my fast, with my garments and my holy mantle rent, and kneeling down and stretching forth my hands to the Lord, I said “O Lord, I am ashamed and confounded before Thy face.” I Esdras 8:72-74
And in many prayers of the Liturgy, the priest is raising his hands while in prayer, a gesture of faith, fervor and supplication to God.
Certain prayers “require” us to kneel. When we ask the Holy Spirit to descend “upon us and upon these Gifts here presented” at the Consecration at the Divine Liturgy, we kneel because we are anticipating the Grace of the Holy Spirit coming down on us. On the Feastday of Pentecost, we kneel as well, during the three Prayers for the Descent of the Holy Spirit. And at an ordination, we also kneel together with the man being ordained as the Holy Spirit comes down upon him. When we go for the sacrament of confession, we kneel to receive the prayer of absolution, again, the Holy Spirit coming down to wipe out the sins we confessed. Kneeling in prayer is a good thing. It also shows humility. Many times when people are really in need of prayer, they kneel as a sign that the prayer is being offered with greater fervor and more impassioned need. There is nothing wrong with kneeling in prayer.
What about prayer while lying down? There are many who pray while falling asleep, not because they forgot to pray (I guess there are some who forget to pray and only do so while falling asleep—this is not a good thing, to give God only the last few seconds), but because they want to pray in the last moments of their day. There is nothing wrong with this either. Nor is there anything wrong with offering a prayer with your first breath in the morning, before you rise from the bed.
Again, the lesson is for us to pray—whether we are standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down, whether our hands are raised or not—we need to pray, as often as we can.
Today’s prayer is a prayer from the Vespers (evening) service that is offered before the Entrance:
In the evening and in the morning and at noonday we praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You, o Master of all, Lord who love mankind: direct our prayer as incense before You, and incline not our hearts to words or thoughts of evil, but deliver us from all who seek after our souls. For to You, O Lord, O Lord, are our eyes, and in You have we hoped. Put us not to shame, O our God. For to You belongs all glory, honor and worship, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Come to God in prayer today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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