Why do Worshippers either Sit, Stand, or Kneel to Pray?
You are visiting a non-liturgical church and the minister says, “Let us pray,” and you find, when you reach for the kneeler, that it isn't there. Looking around, you see that everyone has remained seated with their eyes shut tight. Or perhaps you visit an Eastern Church or synagogue, and the people stand to pray.
“What's gong on? Who is right?” you wonder.
Here are the five traditional postures for prayer, how they originated, what they are used for, and who uses which one:
Standing with hands uplifted and open, head up, and eyes open.
This is the oldest posture for prayer. It is called the orans position, from the Latin word for praying. By praying this way, the worshiper acknowledges God as external and transcendent. This posture is for giving thanksgiving, praise, especially for pronouncing blessings and benedictions. This is still the normal position for prayers in eastern churches and in Jewish synagogues, and it is used in the western church, particularly when the clergy bless the bread and wine of the Eucharist and pronounce blessings and benedictions.
“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed” - John 17:1a, NIV
“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer ” - I Timothy 2:8a, NIV
Standing with hands clasped at the waist, head bowed, and eyes averted or closed.
This is the traditional posture of a shackled prisoner of war who is brought before the conquering king. The hands are clasped at the waist as if they were shackled in chains. The eyes are averted – in ancient times, looking directly at one's captor was insolent and a good way to get killed on the spot. This posture is for submissive petitions or for intercessory or penitential prayer, as we see in Luke 18:10-13.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I want to thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'” Luke 18:10-13, NIV
Kneeling, either with the head up, eyes open, hands open, or with head down, eyes closed, and hands clasped.
This is the traditional posture for requesting favors from a king, and so it became the traditional posture for prayers of repentance or supplication. The Council of Nicea in AD 325 forbade kneeling on Sunday, because penitential prayer is not appropriate during a celebration of the Resurrection. In western Christianity, kneeling came to be an expression of simple humility and submission, and so kneeling became the normal posture of the laity for most prayers in the west. However, to eastern Christians, kneeling is reserved for repentance or supplication.
“[Jesus] withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.' An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” – Luke 22:41-44, NIV
Some western churches have kneelers so the congregation can pray in the pews. Others do not have kneelers, but when people gather at the altar railing they kneel. The secret to kneeling is not to bend at the waist. Thrust your hips forward, so that your abdomen and thighs form a straight, vertical line, and you'll be able to kneel for long period of time without fatigue and without sitting on your heels.
Lying on one's belly, hands up, either with the head up and eyes open or with the head down and the eyes averted or closed.
This is the traditional posture for begging favors from a king when the favors are great and the petitioner is either desperate or has – literally – no standing before the king. It became the traditional posture for desperate, penitential, or intercessory prayer and is still used in eastern churches, which have plenty of room because they don't have pews.
“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' ” – Matthew 26:38-39, NIV
Sitting, head down, eyes averted or closed, and hands clasped.
The Roman Catholic Church invented pews during the Middle Ages, right before the Protestant Reformation. Since the Protestant Reformation was essentially a Christian education movement with very long sermons, the Protestants kept the pews even though they rejected just about everything else they regarded as a ‘Roman invention.' As a result, sitting has become the normal posture for prayer for many western congregations.
In 2 Samuel 7:18, David sat to pray. However, sitting for prayer was not prevalent until after the invention of pews.
Taken from the Pastoral Resources section on the website of the Diocese of Mid-America.
SOUP & SALAD SUPPERS & SERVICES
The Wednesday night Soup Suppers and Services continued in March. We thank those who provided soup, salad and bread for the suppers and who attended the suppers and services.
Thank you to those who contributed to the Wednesday offerings and Good Friday offering for Love INC. The final contribution was $400.00. Praise God!
There was a work day on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Various indoor projects were completed. Thank you to all who helped.
On Palm Sunday the Sunday School children processed in and sang with the choir on the introit at the 10:30 a.m. service.
There were two services on Good Friday. At 3 P.M. the Stations of the Cross were observed. That night we came together for Evening Prayer at 7:30 P.M.
Thank you to all who purchased Easter Lilies to adorn our chapel on Easter in Memory or Honor of Loved Ones.
EASTER SUNDAY, MARCH 31, 2013
We began with breakfast in the Parish Hall and an Easter egg hunt for the children in the garden. A group of Sunday School and Preschool children sang in the Chapel before the Service of Holy Communion. We are grateful to our cooks for all the delicious food at the Easter Breakfast. Thank you to Sara Hassert for the Children's Easter Egg Hunt and to Tammy Tjoelker for directing the children in their Music Presentation. One parishioner said after the children sang, “That was sweet!” Thank you to the choir and Sunny Stilkius for the beautiful choral music. We appreciate all who were here and participated in the worship of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ this glorious Easter day!
Francis (Fran) Chessman, age 81, went home to be with the Lord on Friday, March 15, 2013. For many years Fran was an active member of St. Andrew's, including being a Vestryman, Officer of the Woman's Guild, worker in VBS, and helped get the DCFS license for Preschool. She is survived by her children Grant, Janet, Amy, Donna, Joan and eleven grandchildren. Our prayers are with the Chessman family.
The next Work Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 13, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Lunch will be provided for the workers. Please sign up on the bulletin board in the narthex.
ANNUAL PARISH MEETING
April 14, 2013 following church
There will be a Pot Luck meal prior to the meeting.
Please turn in all reports to the church office for duplication by Sunday, April 7th.
MOTHER/DAUGHTER SALAD SUPPER
Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
Plan now to attend. Invite a friend to be your mother, sister or child for the day if your mother is far away or you have no daughter. All women and girls are cordially invited.
MISSIONARIES of the MONTH
Please be in prayer for Bishop Gerhard Meyer and his wife, Grace, and the parishes in Germany.