Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
As we either grow up in the church or begin participating in services after salvation we are exposed to a lot of traditions that don’t really seem rooted in anything. I for one have no idea why we fold our hands when we pray when everyone in the Bible raises their hands (granted, many churches are doing this now too). Also, I’m not real sure why we close our eyes while praying. –Actually, now that I think about it, most of my questions revolve around prayer. Well one of these traditions is that of kneeling to pray. Today, let’s look at what the Holy Spirit taught me in relation to the significance of getting on your knees to pray.
First, let’s take a look at a passage in Malachi. Before we start, let me give you some background: the book of Malachi is basically God’s response to Israel getting lax in their worship. He’s upset with the Israelites for withholding tithes, the priests not carrying out their work well, and people bringing defective animals for sacrifice. So the whole book focuses on how the Israelites were not properly showing the Lord honor. Anyway, Malachi records,
“When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 1:8).
God asks the people if they’d give a crap animal to their governor. Think about this in your own life. If someone in high authority was coming to you house, you’d act differently and treat them well, wouldn’t you? I imagine most people would say “yes” because we give respect to people in authority. Ok, so what does this have to do with kneeling? Well, consider this; back when kings ruled the earth, it was expected that you would bow in their presence (a full-body bow, like going on one knee, not a piano recital bow). By doing so you’d be showing them respect. Who is Jesus? According to the Bible, he’s a king. Revelation 19:16 shows us, “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Note: I did not capitalize for emphasis, that’s how it’s written in the Bible.) Jesus is the King of kings and when we enter his throne room through prayer, it makes sense to give him his due respect.
Even the great kings of the Bible humbled themselves before God. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon showed his respect to the Lord by getting down on his knees in prayer. History records,
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. Now he had made a bronze platform, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the center of the outer court. He stood on the platform and then knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven (2 Chronicles 6:12-13).
Keep in mind, Solomon wasn’t some low-level king in the bigger picture, oh no, he was one of the most powerful kings of his time. Scripture notes in 2 Chronicles 9:22-23, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” Even though he was greater than any other king, Solomon bowed before God; if Solomon wasn’t too good to bow, then neither are you. If you refuse to bow to the Lord, then you’ve got a big pride problem. Wisdom actually suggests that we should humble ourselves more, in this way we’ll reap a greater reward. James 4:10 states, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” So when you’re not too good to get on your knees, the Lord will lift you up in other areas of your life.
In the end, you will kneel anyway, whether you like it or not. Paul writes,
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
And gave him the name that is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
In heaven and on earth and under the earth,
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
To the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
So even if you’re not kneeling now, you will. However, God would prefer if you understood why kneeling is important and actually want to do so rather than do it out because you have to. For it is written, “Each man should give up what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Lord would rather you give out of your heart (be it money, praise, or honor) than feel like you must and just sort of do it. This carries to kneeling as well.
Another note before wrap up: don’t kneel to others. The most common example of this happening is when people beg. The posture for begging is the same position as prayer; hands folded, on your knees. When you beg somebody on your knees, it is like that person becomes God. Of course, this isn’t really a big deal in the US anymore because most of us are too arrogant to actually beg, but I’ve noticed it still comes up a lot in Korean media and is fairly heavily ingrained into their culture. There are some examples in the Bible of people trying to kneel before others and being rebuked for doing so. Like when Cornelius tried to bow to Peter: “As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. ‘Stand up,’ he said, ‘I am only a man myself’” (Acts 10:25-26). You shouldn’t kneel down to others’ god’s either, even if you’re trying to be respectful of their beliefs; for it is written,
My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces (Exodus 23:23-24).
Actually, we’re not even supposed to bow down to other heavenly beings (even those sent from God!). Check out what happened to Daniel when he encountered the divine:
A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling (Daniel 10:10-11).
Although Daniel was so overcome by his meeting with a heavenly being, the messenger made him stand up right away. John the apostle almost caused a stir in heaven when he tried to bow to the Lord’s messengers. We read in Revelation 19:10,
At this I fell down at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
He tried again a couple of chapters later and got a fairly similar response as well. So if your church has you kneeling to saints or anything other than our Lord, you may want to speak up to the pastor some time about it.
Now I will admit, kneeling every time you pray is a little bit extreme and can be not such a good thing (since we’re not supposed to make a big deal of prayer in public). But, if you’re knees can handle it, at least once a day while you’re at home make sure to show our Lord and King his proper respects. And stop trying to think of excuses not to!