By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Why do we not bow (kneel) in services? I want to do it but I feel that it might distract others. It would make me self-conscious because no one else does.
Reply: God is much more interested in the posture of the heart than the posture of the body when we pray to Him. Whether we pray standing, sitting, lying down or kneeling, our heart should always be humble and our praying always done with a contrite spirit.
The Bible mentions several different body postures when people prayed. Kneeling is one example (2 Chron. 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Dan. 6:10; Lk. 22:41). Standing is another example (Mk. 11:25; Lk. 18:13). Jesus our Lord prayed while He was hanging on the cross (Lk. 23:34,46). Kneeling is not to be necessarily considered as the most humble posture. The Bible also gives examples of some who fell prostrate when they prayed, as did the elders at the feet of the Lamb (Rev. 5:14). Moslems today prostrate themselves on the floor or the ground when they pray to Allah.
One should assume the posture of the body when praying which he believes is the most appropriate. Circumstances will usually determine the most appropriate body posture. one can bow his head while sitting; but kneeling would not be the best posture for prayer, especially in a public place such as restaurant. It is not recommended that one even bow his head if he is praying while driving his automobile.
We must be cautious that we do not emphasize the posture of the body rather than the posture of the heart when we pray. One may kneel while others are standing to pray, but this does not mean that he is necessarily more humble than those who are standing. Kneeling for prayer in services is not feasible for most people due to most of our seating arrangements which are not conducive to it. There would be more shuffling and disorder which would distract from the service. Certainly we should never assume a posture in prayer that will be distracting to others or that will make us self-conscious. Attitude is important to God when we pray. We should always be in a prayerful mood, remembering the words of Paul, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Too, we should never bind any one bodily posture to the exclusion of others. To do so, would be making a law which God has not made.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 23, p. 709
December 6, 1984