Prayer Postures

Should you kneel when you pray? Can you stand? Can you sit? Have you ever wondered what the Bible teaches about posture in prayer? Let’s take a look.

The Bible does not prescribe a particular posture for prayer.

Drawings and paintings of people in prayer often depict them sitting or kneeling, with folded hands. But what does the Bible portray? Here is a survey of various prayer postures from Scripture.

  1. Standing (Genesis 24:12-14, 2 Chronicles 20:5, Luke 18:13)
  2. Sitting (Judges 20:26, 2 Samuel 7:18, Nehemiah 1:4)
  3. Bowing (Exodus 4:31, 34:8, Nehemiah 8:6)
  4. Kneeling (Mark 1:40, Luke 22:41, Acts 7:60, 9:40, 20:36, 21:5)
  5. Placing the head between the knees (1 Kings 18:42)
  6. Laying flat on the ground (Joshua 5:14; Matthew 26:39)

What should you do with your hands?

The Bible never mentions anyone folding his hands to pray. It does, however, mention that some people stretched out their hands in prayer (Exodus 9:29, Isaiah 1:15), while others lifted them up (Exodus 9:29, Psalm 119:48, 1 Timothy 2:8) and at least one man pounded his chest (Luke 18:13).

So why do we fold our hands? Perhaps because our mothers taught us this habit to prevent horseplay during prayer. Or perhaps some famous paintings inspired us. Whatever the case, folding your hands to pray is entirely appropriate, just as appropriate as lifting them up or sitting on them.

What should you do with your eyes?

The Bible never mentions anyone closing their eyes to pray. It does, however, mention that some people lifted up their eyes towards heaven when they prayed (Luke 6:20, John 11:41, 17:1), while others did not (Ezra 9:6, Luke 18:13). This does not prohibit you from closing your eyes in prayer, but it indicates that doing so is not required. (I often close my eyes in prayer, especially in a group setting, because it increases my focus on prayer by eliminating visual distractions. But whenever I pray while I am walking, jogging and driving, I definitely pray with my eyes opened! And I often pray with my eyes open during times of private prayer, at home and in my office.)

God gives attention to the posture of your heart.

While it is helpful, interesting and important to know what the Bible does and doesn’t teach about outward posture in prayer, false religion and wrongly motivated prayer wrongly focuses on external factors, to be seen by other people (Matthew 6:1, 5, 23:5). But God focuses on something different. He considers the condition of your heart as the core issue, and you should to. So what is the appropriate posture for your heart in prayer?

  • A humble heart that bows to Jesus Christ as Lord (James 4:6).
  • A pure, undivided heart that confesses and forsakes the contamination of sin (Psalm 24:4, James 4:8).
  • A confident, reliant heart that eagerly anticipates a response from God (James 1:6, Hebrews 10:22).

Ultimately, your physical, outward posture should naturally reflect the spiritual, inward posture of your heart. May you learn to pray as David, when he said:

Let the words of my mouth, And the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14).


1 reply
  1. Itai
    Itai says:

    So most of the time we are taught to fold clasp the hands and to close the eyes, and most of time that is what we do. Yet, that is not what the bible shows us to do as you mentioned. Go figure.

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