Postures of Prayer
Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 New Living Translation
This is our commandment: to never stop praying. Pray without ceasing. There is no right or wrong way to pray; no position of a prayer is superior to another. The only thing that we as believers must do is to humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledge His Lordship of our lives, and pray without ceasing. The following forms are simply observations of prayer postures found in the Bible that may elevate your spoken prayers. At times, the postures of our prayer can let God know that we are serious about specific issues. Again, we are observing the powerful and miraculous prayers of great men and women of the Bible. If Jesus needed to get alone on His knees to pray, why would we think that it isn’t important for us to do the same?
As we combine our faith with our movement, or put our “prayers in motion”, we can recall ancient times and miracles as we move, breathe, and have our being. (Acts 17:28) If there is an urgent request, we can find ourselves in a prone position, flat on our face before the Lord, as many were in scripture. Perhaps we find ourselves in a simple seated position to simply quiet our anxious thoughts and meditate on Him. You will read about these postures and their meaning.
Keep in mind, there are no rules.
Sometimes it is not just about what we are praying, but how we are praying. The posture of our prayers can take our prayer life to a whole new level of intimacy with Christ. There is no mistaking that God hears our prayers, even if we don’t speak them at all. When we are born again and receive salvation, we become one with Christ. He dwells in us. His spirit is all-consuming and envelops our every fiber. This is the time when grace piled upon grace enters into our lives. It becomes our [true] desire to live for God and cause Him to smile each day by our actions, words, deeds, gifts and talents. Even if our prayers go unspoken, God can perceive our words before they are [actually] even thoughts, He knows our thoughts well before they are [actual] thoughts. (Psalm 139: 2) I am sure you have experienced times when you do not know what to pray. God knows what you need before you even utter a word!
The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (Psalm 94:11) Sometimes when we cry, that is the only prayer needed. Often I have found the only prayer I can pray is one word, “Jesus.” He knows the rest. Other times, I simply hold the Bible up to my heart in silence and download His great and precious promises. Prayer is our lifeline. Without prayer, whether spoken or unspoken, there is no communication with the Life Giver.
Throughout scripture, we see how prayer postures elevated the meaning of the spoken prayer. Regardless of any posture you pray in, the most important posture is truly the posture of your heart. Keep this in mind as you read the following posture descriptions. To say that one prayer posture is superior to another would be biblically incorrect. The bible teaches us that God loves variety, and He speaks to each of us differently. There are no rules, no right or wrong way, just as long as we pray! Always be spirit-led and never led by anything or anyone else. Because whether we are standing, sitting, kneeling, or flat out on our faces, our hearts must be humbled in acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is more important than any external physical position.
There is no wrong or right way to pray, just as long as we never stop praying.
Prayers that were offered while standing were for adoration, thanksgiving, worship, and praise. While standing in awe of God, the hands were typically open with the palms facing upward toward Heaven. Generally speaking, the eyes were open and lifted toward the heavens.
Orans is the Latin word for praying. It is the oldest prayer posture found in scripture and most commonly used in today’s western churches, Jewish synagogues, practiced during mass, and the standard position for taking communion together. Some pastors today require standing for the reading of God’s Word. During this time, many lift their hands or face their palms upward to receive and absorb the words or prayers that are being spoken. Seeing a church gather and stand at the reading of God’s word proves that there are Christians who honor, revere, and respect the written Word of God.
Some of the most memorable stories and miracles from the Bible have come from standing postures that look up to Jesus or Heaven.
- In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. 1 Timothy 2:8
- Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come. John 17:1
- Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” John 11:41
The Mountain of Transfiguration, “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. Luke 9: 27-33
- I look up to the hills from where my help comes from. Psalm 121:1
- Hannah presented to the Lord her petition while standing, and the Lord answered her. 1 Samuel 1:26
- Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Psalm 4:4
In Luke 18:10-14, God answered the prayers of sinners as they stood, prayed, and humbled themselves. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, 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.’ “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
One of my most beloved stories in the Bible is found in 2 Chronicles 20. It’s a story of how God answered Jehoshaphat as he and his small army gathered corporately and stood in prayer, believing God would fight their overwhelming battle for them as they obeyed His commandment of standing still. God performed a miracle. Jehoshaphat and his people stood victorious in the face of their defeated enemy! When you have done all that you can do, stand!
Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard… All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives and their children. 2 Chronicles 20:5-13
So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up. Ephesians 6:13 The Living Bible
The Message Version: Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each others’ spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Seated prayer postures typically demonstrate one who is seeking guidance, counsel, or instruction from The Lord. Sometimes we read how one would use a seated position simply to be alone, find calm, peace, and quiet to bask in the presence of God. Jesus often went to be alone with His Father and pray. Other times, we read how one would sit to pray and let God know they were ready and willing to serve Him and walk in obedience. We may need to remind ourselves to sit quietly and bask in His presence more often, or perhaps sit down with The Lord and let Him know we are ready to walk in obedience.
Have you ever said to The Lord, “Here I am. Send me?” Perhaps it is time. Are you ready? Are you willing? Let us sit and surrender our will. Let us sit and ask for guidance. Let us sit before the Lord and tell Him we will serve Him for the rest of our days, then let us sit and ask, “Where do you want me to go, and what do you want me to do oh Lord?” He will answer you. Simply sit in His presence in stillness, and listen. Prayer is a dialogue; it is not a monologue. He speaks, and we listen. We speak, and He hears us. As with any conversation, we must be quiet and listen to Him. Seated postures are used most often for meditation. While combining our faith with yoga, these are great postures to sit quietly in His presence and converse with the Creator of the Universe, your “Dad!” Imagine climbing on your dad’s lap and talking to Him. Maybe you just wrap your arms around Him and say nothing at all?
- King David sat down before the Lord to inquire, “Why me Lord?” Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 2 Samuel 7:18
- As I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell on me there, and who is ready to serve Him. Ezekiel 8:1
- Then all the Israelite’s, the whole army, went up and came to the house of God [Bethel]and wept; and they sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. Judges 20:26 Amplified
Fasting is an expression of emptying oneself out to seek the Lord so that His word, will, and presence would be the one and only thing that would fill us up. Here, and many other passages, we see the manifestation of miracles that occur when we couple our prayers with fasting. Combining a specific prayer posture with fasting can elevate the intensity of our request and petitions. It will demonstrate to God that we are serious about His call on our life.
Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10
Kneeling is a traditional posture that demonstrates humility, repentance, submission, and supplication. It is the position we see most often where one is seeking favor or making their supplications know to God. When we practice a kneeling pose, we can acknowledge our weakness and grant His strength and power access to our every fiber. Let’s use camel pose as an example. This is a great kneeling back bend, but it also allows us to open our hearts upward to God. During this pose, we can surrender all and worship wholly!
- And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God. Ezra 9:5
- Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Psalms 95:6
- He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God. Daniel 6:10
- Acts 9:40 records the miracle of Peter praying on his knees asking God to raise the dead to life.
- Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. Acts 20:36
- For this reason, I kneel before the Father. Ephesians 3:14
- That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Philippians 2:10
- Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. Exodus 34:8
- Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground, and put his face between his knees. 1 Kings 18:42
- He [Jesus] knelt down and began to pray saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. Luke 22:41-42
Jesus, Paul, Peter, Elijah, Moses and many other great men prayed as they bowed their knees and completely surrendered.
If Jesus got on His knees, surely we should too!
Prone (on the belly) postures typically symbolize a desperate plea, an urgent request, or to express to God complete and utter dependence on Him. There have been many times in my life when I had to eat dust bunnies!
Have you ever been out of options? This is when we find ourselves flat on our faces, eating dust bunnies from the floor, and crying out to the Lord, “Save me!” Prone-positioned prayers are also used for intercessory prayers; these are typically urgent prayers in themselves. When we find ourselves grieved over a loved one or need to stand in the gap for another brother or sister, these are usually prayers of urgency and desperation. Prostrated prayers are often used for repentance and confessing sins, sometimes this is an urgent task as well. In Samuel, we see how a prone position pays honor and respect to a superior. This is also a position of true worship as we see in 2 Chronicles when Jehoshaphat bowed down face first.
- Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 2 Chronicles 20:18
- Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. Joshua 7:6
- “What does he look like?” he asked. “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 1 Samuel 28:14
- Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38
- I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights… Deuteronomy 9:25
- And all the angels stood round about the throne, and [about] the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God. Revelation 7:11
Lying down and meditating on the Lord is a sweet and precious time with our Maker. Lying down, especially in bed, is a position of vulnerability and surrender. People call it corpse pose, but I like to call it “Resting Angel,” It sounds slightly better than Corpse Pose, and is one of the most important postures in one’s yoga practice. As we are on our backs, we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our body, heart, mind, spirit, and soul. We simply meditate on the fact that we are breathing and alive because of Him. All things are from Him, and because we were created to hear from our Creator, this is the perfect posture to do so. Allow His spirit to speak to yours. Our focus turns towards gratitude as we thank Him, spirit to Spirit, for the temples He has loaned us. This is time to welcome stillness and a peace that passes all understanding.
- Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Psalm 4:4
- My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. Psalm 63:56
- Moreover, the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, “May your God make the name of Solomon better than your name, and make his throne greater than your throne,”’ and the king bowed himself on the bed. I Kings 1:47
PRAYER POSTURES QUICK GUIDE
Standing: For praise, honor, thanksgiving, worship, adoration, reverence and awe: a deep respect. A place of strength and glorifying God.
Seated: To inquire, seek counsel or guidance. Sit alone with God, and enjoy His presence. Converse and dialogue or simply meditate on your Heavenly Father. Submit, surrender, and let Him know we want to walk in obedience and serve Him.
Kneeling: Humility, submission, honor and complete surrender. Supplications and petitions made known. Acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over one’s life.
Prone: Urgency, emergency, humility (releasing all ego), surrender, confession, repentance, desperate pleas or cries, intercessory prayer for others or standing in the gap.
Lying Down: Resting and enjoying the presence and goodness of the Lord. Be still, quiet a busy mind and an anxious heart. Used to meditate on Him and His precepts.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for breathing your Spirit into mine and giving me life! My praises for You shall continually be in my mouth! Today I come before You with praise and thanksgiving. I know there is no right or wrong way to pray, just that I never stop praying. There is no good, bad, correct, or wrong posture of prayer, just that we communicate with each other throughout the day. Thank You for blessing me with a healthy body, one that can practice many postures of prayer. And as I set my prayer in motion and worship You with all my heart, mind, spirit and soul, I give thanks to You for all of Your creation and what You would have me do for you while I’m here on planet earth. Thank You, Lord, for every breath. May my every breath and my healthy temple glorify You, the Living God! In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen and Amen!
Postures of Prayer is an excerpt from Stretching Your Faith and has been used with permission by the author Michelle Thielen.