Why Do We Kneel in Prayer?
I’m hoping you’re reading this because you’re wondering too why life sometimes brings us to our knees, or flat on our faces. Maybe you’re curious if this is the only way to “reach” God. Or doubtful as to whether a certain protocol of kneeling, standing, or sitting (or any ritual) is God’s desire.
I wanted to dig into the question, “why do we kneel in prayer?” because I don’t know.
Rather, I seek.
And most of all, I want to encourage readers that Jesus didn’t come exclusively for the upper echelon who knew all the steps and rules. He’s looking for us to long for his love and grace. He’s finding those who might not be “doing it right” but are precious in his sight, anyway.
I come to this topic with the belief that God doesn’t even require knees to be in relationship with us. That said, kneeling is still a beautiful choice, as it can stir us toward his presence.
I won’t make a case for kneeling as a prerequisite for redemption, but let’s explore why it’s wonderful, whether it’s required, and interesting places kneeling is mentioned in the Bible.
Why Do We Kneel in Prayer?
Author Brooke Cooney suggests that kneeling in prayer is an act of humility, reflecting obedience to what is best for us. Kneeling isn’t the easiest action. It takes effort and requires a surrendering of our selves. In a way, it releases our limited strength into a more receptive pose, one that seeks to stand on God’s strength, not our own.
Cooney suggests that if we stand on our own merit, we succumb to a brokenness of spirit. And yes, feeling broken will often drive us to our knees in prayer. But the confession when we’re willing to kneel in prayer is, “you alone, God, are able.”
Always standing tall, if we’re thinking it’s all about looking strong, surrenders us captive to our brokenness. It can serve a façade rather than help us seek God.
Not only does kneeling to pray elicit a physical sense of humbling, it also communicates a reverence for the One to whom we pray. It demonstrates need, and a choice to be halted and healed.
Then Paul continues: “For this reason I kneel before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14).
This is just before Paul’s famous exposé on being so rooted and established that you actually grasp the width, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love. It’s a blown-away, knocked-off-my-feet action. It’s one way to show that when you speak with God you are in the presence of incomparable, immeasurable divinity.
God won’t turn away if you don’t kneel, but we have the freedom and the confidence to approach him this way.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Naassom Azevedo
Do We Have to Kneel to Pray?
And in a compelling example of going prostrate to pray, Jesus falls face down before the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:35).
We’re invited to pray continually (1 Thes. 5:17) to stay connected with God’s power. There’s no exclusive prayer-position commanded.
What Does the Bible Say about Kneeling to God?
Whether or not you kneel in your prayer time these days, or find yourself wondering if your prayers are ever heard, it’s comforting to know that the Bible assures us: one day every knee shall bow. This truth repeats in the Old and New Testaments, like a thread pulling us forward in hope.
Toward the end of this chapter, God says:
“By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow...” (Isaiah 45:23).
This “word that will not be revoked” is again confirmed in Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10, and in Revelation 5:13-14. It promises us a time when all will worship the one true God and not other false gods. And in fact, the biblical word for worship means to bow down.
This idea of kneeling or bowing down is carried through God’s love story because when promises this awesome prove true, it can knock our feet out from under us—in the best possible way.
His revelation that the entirety of all creation will be bowing down means that there won’t be any need for our false props of self-righteous earning, or performing our way into his gift of grace and eternal life. It will be okay to ‘lose it’ and fall down on our knees in joy and honor of the One who brought us through.
He is the Lord. There is no other.
God warns us not to worship, bow down, or kneel in reverence to other gods or false idols. In the end, he will reveal his authority over them all.
“You shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces” (Exodus 23:24).
The purpose of sending his Son and the mercy he offers, is to free us from bondage to idols, distractions, sins, or choices that deceive or endanger us. Choosing to pray in the name of Jesus as the way, truth, and life stays in step with a beautiful plan:
“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth...” (Philippians 2:10).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Made Suta/EyeEm
How Should We Approach Prayer?
In an iBelieve.com article, author Meg Bucher shares 20 verses that encourage an attitude of the heart toward praying. Praying, as our lifeline to God, doesn’t require kneeling. But oftentimes kneeling can adjust the heart.
And remember, when you can’t find the words, you can pray God’s word to him, or rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede for you. In fact, our prayers can be raw, casual, and the only words we can cobble together.
Author Betsy DeCruz offers comfort that you don’t have to pray just right for God to listen. God hears every prayer, fancy or not. Sometimes we can only pray, “God help me,” or “Be with me.”
Kneeling to pray is a way of speaking to yourself first, that you want to submit in obedience to the only authority that is good. But praying is the goal. Approaching the gift of prayer as our tether to God’s guidance in our lives.
You don’t have to prepare or posture. Just pray.
The Bible makes it evident that prayer is a two-way relationship with God. Sometimes we’re utterly destitute, wordless even, or overcome. Other times we may stand in the presence of our King.
To pray, you can kneel, stand, lie prostrate, jump for joy. You can pray in any position at any time. The point is to position your heart. Whether on your knees or not.
But because kneeling can serve to portray surrender, it’s a lovely way to remind ourselves that God is available when we surrender our hearts in prayer.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Boonyachoat
Lia Martin loves to inspire others to lean into the Lord daily. She's a writer, editor, marketer, former Crosswalk.com Faith Editor, and author of Wisdom at Wit's End: Abandoning Supermom Myths in Search of Supernatural Peace. When she's not cultivating words, she loves walking in nature, reading, exploring the latest health trends, and laughing with her two wonderful kids. She blogs at liamartinwriting.com.