By WALTER ALBRITTON
Is God more likely to answer your prayers if you kneel when you pray? Of course not. But when I have really needed God’s help, I have usually gone to my knees in prayer. Even though I am sure it is the “position” of the heart, not the body, that matters to God, I feel a need to kneel when praying.
It may have been the church that caused me to prefer kneeling to pray. I have been a Methodist all my life and Methodists usually kneel in prayer to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. And Methodist pastors love to invite their people to spend time praying at the altar on their knees. So praying on my knees has been a lifelong habit.
Bible stories have influenced my thinking as well, especially the accounts of people kneeling to make requests of Jesus. In his Gospel, Mark weaves together brilliantly two stories of individuals “falling” at the feet of Jesus. One is a community leader named Jairus, the other a woman who had been suffering with an issue of blood for 12 years.
Jairus was desperate. His little daughter was dying. So he fell at the feet of Jesus, pleading with him to come to his home and heal his daughter. Jesus agrees to go with him and as they make their way through a crowd, the suffering woman slipped up behind Jesus and touched the hem of his garment. Realizing that someone had touched him, because “power had gone forth from him,” Jesus looks around to see who had touched him. The poor woman, trembling with fear, admits that it was she and “fell down before him.” I can see Jesus lifting her to her feet as he assures her that her faith has brought her peace and healing.
We are not surprised by the woman kneeling, though we would not have expected to see Jairus kneeling. After all, as a ruler of the synagogue he could have assumed he could stand and make a request of Jesus. Kneeling is a sign of humility and helplessness. The one kneeling is acknowledging a need for help which the other person has the power to provide, and for which one is unworthy to receive. So Jairus swallows his pride and falls on his knees.
This scene calls to mind a phrase from a song, “Let me at Thy throne of mercy, find a sweet relief; kneeling there in deep contrition, help my unbelief. The title of that old gospel song stimulates a picture of a humble sinner kneeling before the Lord: “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.”
While in my mind I know God does not require me to kneel when praying earnestly, in my heart I have always felt the need to humble myself by kneeling when crying out to God for help or when praising Him for my undeserved blessings. I understand it is faith that pleases God, not the position of my body. So even in prayer I ask the Lord for the gift of faith, faith that is stronger than belief, faith that trusts God to meet my needs and faith that God delights in hearing and answering my prayers.
What Jesus said to Jairus is a significant lesson about prayer. Arriving at the home of Jairus, Jesus and Jairus were greeted by people who chastised Jairus for bothering Jesus because “your daughter is already dead.” Jesus ignored them and said to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Soon Jairus’ anxiety turned to joy when his prayer was answered; his little girl was alive.
Multiple times Jesus said to troubled people, “Fear not.” He was saying, “Trust me and don’t let fear paralyze your faith.” Fear can cause us to doubt God’s love, or His willingness to care about the concerns we bring to him on our knees. So faith must say to fear, “Get out of my life! I will not allow you to deny me the blessings that God wants to give me in response to my faith.”
Whether we stand, or sit, or fall on our knees when we pray, we must exercise the gift of faith as we humbly plead for God’s mercy. And if we happen to be on our knees while praying, soon we will hear our Lord saying, “On your feet now. It is time to go help someone in need because I usually answer your prayers while you are serving others.”