Aaron, Biloxi, Mississippi
do we put our hands together and bow our heads when we pray?"
short answer to your question is . . . I don't know.
for some educated guesses which are true to the
Scriptures. Jesus told a parable about two men who went
to the temple to pray. (See Luke 18:10-14.) The
one was a self-righteous Pharisee who prayed about himself,
citing all his religious good deeds and comparing himself
favorably with others whom he looked down upon as
"sinners." (See verses 11, 12.) If he
looked down on others whom he considered below him, he
probably looked up very confidently to God when he prayed.
Jesus said that his prayer did not result in justification
before God because he exalted himself rather than humbling
himself before God.
the same parable, a Publican, i.e. a despised and corrupt tax
collector, also went to the temple to pray. He knew his
unworthiness to approach God, and so he stood at a distance.
He beat his breast as a gesture indicating he recognized all
he deserved from God was punishment. He would not even
lift his eyes in prayer, which must mean that his head was
bowed in humility and shame. His prayer was one for
mercy. (See verse 13.) Jesus said that this man
went home justified. Jesus closed this parable with the
following statement: "For everyone who exalts
himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
exalted." (vs. 14)
don't know the significance of putting hands together in
prayer. I would speculate that it is a posture
symbolizing focus. As for bowing heads in prayer, I
believe this is a posture of humility. We must always
come before God in humility as "God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)
responded to your question as best I can, I would go further
in saying that I do not believe the posture of putting hands
together and bowing the head are necessary for prayer.
In fact, I almost never see anyone assume this posture in
prayer, and only rarely (and unconsciously) have I caught
myself doing it. Humility in prayer is a posture of the
heart and not a physical posture. Furthermore, the
parable of the Pharisee and the Publican was really about the
humility required of one who is looking to God for mercy and
justification, or salvation. For those who have received
grace, mercy, and salvation through faith in the redeeming
work of Jesus on our behalf, humility in prayer assumes
another picture altogether. While we don't come to God
boasting of our own goodness, we do come celebrating what
Jesus has done for us. He has reconciled us to God,
given us new birth into the family of God, made us partakers
of God's divine nature, and justified us, i.e. made us
righteous as though we had never sinned. The result?
We have a new approach in prayer: "Let us then
approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may
receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of
need." (Hebrews 4:16)
the redeemed people of God, humility partners with
celebration. Humility is to acknowledge that we have no
righteousness of our own that would fit us to approach a holy
God, but that same humility embraces the forgiveness and
transforming grace that declares us righteous through Jesus'
substitutionary death for us. In short, the believer in
Jesus can come to God in humility while coming with a head
that is raised, eyes that are opened, and a heart that is
trust that this response is a help to you and an encouragement
in your own prayer life. For the believer, prayer is a
blessed opportunity to commune with the Almighty who is our
Father in heaven and who desires to enrich our lives with
everything necessary to sustain us in life and in godliness.
So, I trust that you will find yourself approaching God's
throne in prayer with boldness, confidence and joy.