Should I always bow down in prayer? - Psalm 95:6

Question
Should I always bow down in prayer? - Psalm 95:6
Answer
Psalm 95:6: "Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!"

Psalm 95:6 mentions two types of posture in worship: bowing down and kneeling. These are associated with genuine worship (Psa. 138:2; cf. Gen. 18:2; Num. 20:6, etc.). They can be part of being reverent and even part of prayer. One of the Hebrew words meaning "to bow down" (shachah) is used some 54 times in the O.T. and actually means "worship." Conversely, since such posture as bowing or kneeling is a sign of worship, those in Christ should not bow to false gods (Exod. 20:4-5) or even angels (Rev 19:9-10).

However, bowing down is not the only accepted posture in worship, reverence or prayer. Jesus, in his longest recorded prayer, lifted his eyes toward heaven (John 17:1). No other posture is mentioned in the text.

According to Scripture there is more than one correct posture in worship, reverence and prayer.

Facedown (Num. 16:22, 20:6; Josh. 5:14)
Hands Raised (Psa. 134:2, 141:2; 1 Tim. 2:8)
Kneeling (1 Kings 8:54; Dan. 6:10; Acts 7:60)
Prostrate (Matt. 26:39)
Sitting (2 Sam. 7:18)
Standing (2 Chron. 20:5)

While our bodies are to be living sacrifices before God (Rom. 12:1-2), it is not so much the posture of our bodies, but the bowing posture of our hearts that is all important (2 Chron. 7:14; Psa. 51:17). We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30; cf. Jer. 29:13). This is not a smorgasbord for selecting just what we want. We should recognize the repeated conjunction "and" because it makes Jesus' words all inclusive! We are to love the Lord our God and thus worship him in total truth with all our being (John 4:24). Prayer is not vain, long babbling (Matt. 6:7), rather an intimate (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) and ongoing relationship with God in every circumstance (Zech. 13:9; John 15:7; Jas. 5:16).

Moreover, we are to worship in numerous ways — psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, making melody with our heart, and giving thanks in all things (Eph. 5:19-20; 6:18) — and even without ceasing (Luke 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17). We are to be alert (Matt. 26:41). We should be confident (Heb. 10:19, 22). Proper reverence before the King of kings is an expression of faith. We're called to persevere in prayer, praying individually (Matt. 6:6; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15-16; 6:12) and in groups (Matt. 18:19; Luke 1:10; Acts 1:14).

Have you ever "messed up" or felt inadequate in prayer? More than likely, yes. However, God has this covered as well: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26-27).

Related Topics

Should we pray the EXACT Lord's Prayer?
What is prayer?
Lessons on Repentance - Psalm 51
What is acceptable worship in the church?
Imprecatory Psalms
The Worship Project

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).