It’s 11:55 Sunday morning. As the preacher transitions into his closing prayer he says, “with every head bowed and every eye closed.” This scenario raises a question. What is the scriptural support for this tradition? Where do we find people bowing their heads and closing their eyes for prayer in the Bible?
In the Bible, people prayed using various postures. For example:
o Praying while kneeling (1 Ki. 8:54; Eph. 3:14)
o Praying while lying face down (2 Chron. 20:18; Mt. 26:39)
o Praying while standing (1 Sam. 1:26; Mk. 11:25)
o Praying while looking to heaven (Mk. 6:41; 7:34; Jn. 17:1)
o Praying while not looking to heaven (Lk. 18:13)
Using various postures for prayer was also true in the early church. For example:
“We cannot affirm that any single posture of prayer was universal among the early Christians.” Blunt, A. W. F. Studies in apostolic Christianity. London: J.M. Dent, 1909
In Luke 11:1, the disciples of Jesus said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Interestingly, Jesus did not mention anything about a correct posture for praying in His reply. Why not? Possibly, because Jesus knew the condition of the human heart. The perverse heart of mankind has an unhealthy propensity toward ritualism. Sadly, that is not only true of unbelievers but also believers.
In Numbers 21, the children of Israel grumbled against the Lord. As a result, God sent deadly snakes among the people and many died. The Lord told Moses to make a bronze image of a snake and mount it on a pole. When anyone who was bitten looked at it, then that person would recover. Israel kept that bronze image as a memorial. But years later they began to worship that memorial. Eventually, Hezekiah destroyed the bronze image that Moses had made, because the people of Israel made offerings to it (2 Kings 18:4).
Perhaps God purposely left the topic of posture in prayer open ended in scripture because of mankind’s propensity toward ritualism.
As soon as the religionist prescribes a method or formula, his followers will adopt it as a means of manipulating God. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, I think that He purposely avoided any teaching on prayer posture to circumvent the ritualistic propensity of mankind. Every time I see a professional athlete ritualistically perform the sign of the cross, I want to say to them, “rubbing your lucky rabbit’s foot will do you as much good.”
A missionary to a remote people group in South America wanted to teach the new believers dependence upon the Lord to meet all their needs. Before taking a long canoe trip with these new believers, he prayed out loud for God’s protection and success on their journey. He bowed his head and closed his eyes before praying. As he prayed, he assumed a kind of Tim Tebow-like prayer posture. The canoe was tied to a nearby stump, so he raised his right leg and put his foot on the stump. He rested his right elbow on his knee and curl his hand into a fist. Then he bowed his head and rested his forehead against his fist. He began to wonder what he was actually communicating to these new believers. As he continued to pray out loud, he opened his eyes and looked around. To his dismay, he saw that every single man was imitating his exact prayer posture. The only problem is that none of them had a stump to put their foot on. Instead, they were all standing around like a bird on one leg.
When God looks at us from His throne in heaven, I wonder how many of us look like silly birds standing on one leg as we pray to Him.
On a personal note, my neighbor and I have been playing a lot of music together. I’ve been learning a lot with respect to both guitar and mandolin. I’ve also been able to attend some music workshops for guitar and mandolin at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement which is about 40 minutes from here.
The end of the Spring planting season is over here in Florida. The Fall planting season starts in September. I still have pepper plants that are doing well growing in 5 gallon buckets. I did notice the other day that I have a volunteer tomato plant growing in a bucket with a pepper plant.
I have a couple of events that I will be involved in this Fall. I will be in Missouri at our Missionary Training Center in October and November to take part in the course there. I was also asked to speak at the Fall Bible Conference in Duluth Minnesota which is the first week in October. It should be a great time as there are a number of excellent Bible teachers who will be there.
I would sure appreciate your prayers as I gear up for these events in the Fall.
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The Grounds of Justification
To be justified on the grounds of the shed blood of Jesus plus a preliminary work of reformation or subsequent work of sanctification the natural can easily approve of. But to be justified on the grounds of the shed blood of Jesus and that alone, is totally beyond his comprehension.