How to Pray

What is the proper posture in which to pray?

There is no one right way in which to physically position yourself to pray. Among the Jews before Christ, the most common way of praying was standing. Hannah appears to have been standing in the temple when she was praying for a child (1 Samuel 1:26). Jesus said, “When ye stand praying, forgive…” (Mark 11:25).

Kneeling in prayer was traditionally used during times of special solemnity, although we read of Daniel praying on his knees three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Solomon knelt at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:54) and Ezra knelt upon his knees when he was in heaviness of heart before God (Ezra 9:5). David said, “Let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psalm 95:6). There are accounts of the saints in the New Testament kneeling down to pray in Acts 21:5 and Paul kneeling to pray in Acts 20:36.

In the Old Testament, there are many recorded events of people praying prostrate, with the head on the ground, during times of great distress or sorrow. Elijah the prophet prayed with his face between his knees on the ground (1 Kings 18:42). The people during the time of Ezra worshiped with their faces to the ground (Nehemiah 8:6). We cannot forget our Saviour who “fell on his face, and prayed” (Matthew 26:39) in the garden of Gethsemane.

Scripturally, there are various ways to pray, and it would be man’s thinking to establish a rule about a singular position in which to pray. Our time in prayer should be respectful and in honor and worship to the Lord. It is a blessing to be able to pray walking, driving, and lying down, but it is also important that the child of God not get lazy and forgo the meaningful, regular position of worship and quietness in which to pray.

It is noteworthy that the New Testament does teach that “men pray every where, lifting up holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8). There are many examples of the Old Testament church praying with their hands lifted in either praise or supplication to the Lord God. While hands may not be lifted during every prayer, I find it compatible with the scripture to continue this practice in times of special praise or entreaty to the Lord.

What does the Bible teach about a private prayer language?

It is imperative that we be guided by the Bible and not by the experiences or practices of professed Christians. The scripture does not teach a private prayer language where the prayer is in an unknown, celestial language. Whose example better to follow than Christ Himself? Jesus taught His disciples to pray plainly and in simplicity (Matthew 6:9-13).

People often quote 1 Corinthians 14:14, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” Note that unknown was added by the translators and the word “tongue” is glossa, which means a foreign language. It does not mean incoherent babbling or praying. If someone is praying in a foreign language that the prayer understands but no one else in the room understands, the understanding of the prayer is unfruitful, or unedifying, to the listeners in the room. Verse 15 further clarifies this: “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”

Jesus also teaches in Matthew 6:7 not to use vain repetitions as the heathen do. Our prayers are to be prayed coherently with understanding and purpose of heart.

For further information on the subject of speaking or praying in tongues, please see Gospel Truth, Issue 9.

How long should someone pray?

There is no assigned time that is correct for a session of prayer. Jesus’ example in the Lord’s prayer was less than 30 seconds. Jesus at times prayed all night while other times a shorter length. On one hand, some people do not pray enough, while others are under bondage and may pray many hours every day to the neglect of other responsibilities. The situation often dictates the length of prayer. When one is heavily burdened, private prayer may be lengthy or even through the night. It sometimes takes a time of prayer to get into the spirit of prayer. Normally, public prayer is not the time for long prayers. What is most important is that we make contact with God and take time to worship and entreat Him. Most people do not struggle with praying too much!