The Proper Posture of Prayer

I have a question about what is said in Matthew 6:5.

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”  (Matthew 6:5)

In this verse is Jesus saying we should never pray standing up? Does that include prayer done before service starts and during altar calls? If we can’t stand, should we pray on our knees or flat on our face? Please advise.

The context of this verse will answer part of your question. Notice the UPPERCASE I added.

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as THE HYPOCRITES are: for THEY love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, THAT THEY MAY BE SEEN OF MEN. Verily I say unto you, THEY have their reward.” (Matthew 6:5)

Did you see it? “THEY” (“THE HYPOCRITES”) stood when “THEY” prayed, and the purpose why they stood was “THAT THEY MAY BE SEEN OF MEN.” As a result, this verse is not about what posture a person uses when praying, but instead the goal a hypocrite has when praying in public.

Concerning the posture of prayer, the Bible talks of praying while standing (Mark 11:25), sitting (Nehemiah 1:4), while laying down (Matthew 26:39), with hands raised (1 Timothy 2:8), and while kneeling (Act 9:40). It says prayer was done in secret places like a closet (Matthew 6:6) a home (Acts 10:9), or in a wilderness (Luke 5:16). We also have evidence prayer was done with family (Acts 21:5) among believers (Acts 12:5; James 5:16) in public places like a street (Matthew 6:5), a synagogue (Matthew 6:5), the Temple (Acts 22:17), a house (Daniel 6:10), and in prison (Acts 16:25). Then we have scriptures that talk of believers being in a constant state of prayer (see Acts 12:5; Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3). None of these last verses talk clearer of the state of continual prayer than the next verses:

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”  (1 Timothy 2:8)

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Of course, these are not instructing believers to remain in a continual posture of prayer, since that would be both physically and mentally impossible.

I applaud your concerns about Matthew 6:5 and your desire to pray as the Bible directs, but the fact is, there is no Bible for how prayer is to be done during an altar call or during the time that comes before a church service. We also have no direction telling us to keep our eyes open or closed when praying. What’s more, there isn’t even any mention of an altar call or a preservice occurring in the New Testament. Therefore, I suggest the question shouldn’t be how to pray in the church building, but rather, how to pray as the Church body. The Church is the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30-32). Jesus is the head of that body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 4:15-16). To pray without ceasing is to live in a way where you (as the Body) are in constant contact with Jesus Christ (your Head). Thus, the posture you’re in during prayer is not as important as the actual act of prayer. So, whether it’s an altar call, a preservice, or any other time you find yourself so led—just pray.

Copyright © 2019 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.