How are we to approach this sacred thing called prayer? Ephesians 3:14-15— For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.—give us three marvelous principles on how we are to approach prayer: the reason, posture, and object of prayer.
First, there is the reason we pray. A clue to this reason is found in the reason Paul prayed, which we find back in chapter 2: he was praying because we were once aliens, now citizens we were once slaves, now free; we were once outcasts, now family‑members. So, Paul’s reason for praying was that all believers would USE the power that their position in Christ provides. Looking at all the position, possessions, and power that the believer has in Christ, Paul prays that we will use it, that we will apply it, that we will live out the realities we have in Christ.
Why do we pray? Do we pray just to get something? Do we pray only when we need something or only when we are in trouble or distress? There is nothing wrong with any of this unless these are the only reasons we pray. This takes us back to the thought in of praying for spiritual realities, not just physical needs. Is the underlying reason for our prayer that we will use the position, possessions, and power that our salvation in Christ provides? Do we pray this for other believers? Are our goals and motives for prayer ultimately spiritual? If not, we are praying for the wrong reason.
Second, there is the posture of prayer. There is no prescribed posture for prayer in the Scripture. Of course, there are many who insist that one posture is better than all others. Some say to really pray effectively, one must be kneeling. Others say we should stand with the head bowed and eyes closed. Still others maintain that to speak with God one should either stand or sit while looking toward heaven, perhaps with the arms stretched outward or upward. It’s odd, however, that disagreement exists here at all because the Word of God tells of many postures for prayer. Abraham stood before the Lord as he interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:22). David sat before the Lord as he prayed about the building of the temple (I Chron. 17:16). Jesus fell on His face and prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39).
So why did Paul mention knelling here? He undoubtedly did so because of what knelling pictures. It was actually not customary for Jews to kneel in prayer. The normal posture was standing, just as Jews do today as they rock back and forth and intone their prayers before the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Kneeling, in fact, indicated an extraordinary event or an unusual passion. King Solomon, for example, knelt on a wooden platform before all the people when he prayed at the dedication of the Temple, lifting his hands to Heaven in prayer (II Chron. 6:13). Likewise, Paul knelt in prayer with the Ephesian elders when he made his emotional farewell to them (Acts 20:36–38).
There are, therefore, at least three pictures that kneeling paints. 1. Kneeling pictures reverence: “Oh, come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Ps. 95:6). 2. Kneeling pictures submission. When Solomon dedicated the temple (II Chron. 6), his kneeling in prayer was not only out of worship but submission to God’s will and judgments. 3. Kneeling pictures burden and passion. With great burden Ezra fell on his knees before the Lord because of the intermarriage of the Israelites and their pagan neighbors (Ez. 9:5‑6). So, Paul knelt and emphasized kneeling for at least three reasons: 1. Reverence for all God had done; 2. Submission to God’s will as he sat in prison; 3. Burden for the people to whom he was writing, which seems especially significant here. Paul had a special burden for the people to whom he ministered; he passionately prayed that they would understand these principles, embrace them, and apply them. This should likewise be the burden of every pastor in our day.
Christianity today could do with a lot more kneeling. We should not kneel out of ritual and formalism; this makes the act meaningless. Rather, kneeling is between each believer and God. We will not kneel every time we pray since because prayer is “constant communion,” we would be walking around on our knees all day. But when there is a need to kneel, God will show that to us. Most important, however, attitude is much more important than posture.