“It is a throne of grace that God in Christ is represented to us upon; but yet is is a throne still whereon majesty and glory do reside, and God is always to be considered by us as on a throne.”
We are to assume the posture of humility before a Holy God.
We bow our heads when we pray, to show our unworthiness. We close our eyes to symbolize our inability to look upon God’s glory. We kneel because we are before our King.
Throughout history, people have prayed while posturing. What I mean to say is that people have seen the need to approach this holy God in particular physical positions. These positions are not all alike. They are not necessarily mandatory either, but there should be consideration of ones peculiar position as they pray. By that I mean one should consider the actual position they are in as a mortal human being before Deity.
God is a real being. Although you cant see him, he is there. He exists as a person, not merely an idea or concept. The fact that God is spirit should not detract from the reality of his existence. The reality that you are physically limited to only a spiritual vision of God, does not translate into an imaginary God. God is as real as the nose on your face. He sits on his real throne, and you, when in his throne room in prayer, are in reality, before a mighty King.
That being said, if God were visible in all of his glory, and if you were not immediately killed by his presence (for his glory can not be seen by mortal men), how would you approach him? Would you simply walk up to the King of the universe and say “Hey bud, what’s up?” I don’t think so. This God, your Father, is unapproachable Light! He is I Am! Who are you to even be in his presence? You have come by invitation, not your own worthiness. He has condescended so that you may petition him and this is only possible through the mediation of his Son, Jesus. Remember, God is not a tame God!
The various postures people have used in prayer throughout the ages are derived from the fear and awe I am attempting to communicate to you. People have held up their arms or stretched them out to signify openness or vulnerability. Some have laid prostrate in total humility. Most of the time now though, we do a few things that I would like you to consider, the next time you pray. There is a time for a man to hide in his closet or make his way to the forest, so that he can pray hidden from all others. There is a time, such as Thanksgiving, that a man is required to pray in front of others. Consider these postures as you approach God this Thursday.
We bow our head. We do this to signify that God is our King and our Sovereign. We expose our neck to him in an act of humility and submission. Thank him for all he has given you. He is a gracious giver of gifts. Consider thanking him as you place yourself under his authority as your King. He deserves your humble submission.
We close our eyes. We cannot look upon him in his majesty and glory for fear of death. He is glory and power forever and ever and we as mortals can not view him lest our human bodies be overcome and perish. More than likely, you will close your eyes. It is still a given when people pray in our culture. As you do, consider why you do. This is no mere god you petition. He is the God of Isaiah 6 who inspired the prophet to realize his own uncleanliness and say, “I am undone”.
We bow our knee. Once again, we do this to our Sovereign who, by his mercy and the mediation of Christ, we are allowed into the throne room. Furthermore, we are not worthy to stand upon our feet in his presence. Feet are symbolic of dirt and filth; we dare not stand in front of him. This is a most uncomfortable posture for people in our culture. I don’t believe it is because we have bad knees. Bowing the knee is hard, I believe, because we don’t feel real humility. We are an independent and proud people. I challenge you, if you are the head of you house this Thanksgiving, bow your knee when you pray over the meal. You should not do this to impress others, but impress them it will. I guarantee, if there are believers present, they will automatically recognize what is going on. They may or may not bow, but they will know who it is that you address in your prayer. There will be no mistaking that they have been ushered into the presence of the Lord of Lords and although they may not bow, they will be convicted of God’s holiness.
I sometimes think of the places that these humble postures have been assumed, authentically. One of the most pervasive places in my thoughts about this have been the battlefields of old. Think of the need of prayer, even for unbelievers, before battle. Death was immanent and fear was prevalent. Yet, the battle was necessary. Even more so was prayer made necessary when men lined up beside one another, in great lines of thousands, and marched in those lines, to meet the enemy at close quarters. Up until the final days of the War of Southern Independence, men formed great battle lines in open fields, fought, and died by the thousands in the span of a day. Think of the moments before the battle, when great leaders stood on hillsides and called their men to pray, while praying over them. As the general bowed, so did the men. The silence would’ve only been broken by the clanging of swords in their sheaths, the lowering of weapons, and the moving of thousands to their knees, removing their hats and crying in silence for God’s mercy. When we are in the most desperate of need is often when we recognize our most desperate need…
Soldiers! we have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause should be pure in His eyes; that ‘our times are in His hands,’ and we have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined will; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place among the nations of the earth. -Robert E Lee
Although I don’t believe that we should always pray in these postures, I do believe that there should be times when we need to assume these postures as we pray. The postures of prayer may then become something other than symbolic. They may become the manifestation of our view of God’s holiness, and that is a posture we should all take.
“He who prays as he ought will endeavour to live as he prays.”