I am a part of a praise team. And it's interesting that we all have different expressions of prayer. One member falls to her knees to pray, while I prefer to lift my hands to heaven, while another simply bows head and folds hands.
What does scripture say about the proper position for prayer? Hands lifted to heaven or folded before us? Standing, kneeling or fully prostrate before our creator? Looking up to heaven, or eyes tightly shut? Will any position grant us more favor with the King?
There are a few verses that tell of someone's physical position while praying:
Standing - Luke 18:11a (NASB)
The Pharisee stood and was praying
Kneeling - Luke 22:41a (NASB)
And He [Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray.
Prostrate - Matthew 26:39a (NASB)
And He [Jesus] went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed
Hands raised - 1 Timothy 2:8 (NASB)
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
Looking toward heaven - John 17:1 (NIV2011)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
While there are more examples of positions in prayer, none of these verses state that any physical position in prayer is in any way superior to any other. So what does Scripture say concerning the "proper" position for prayer? Let’s look at some other verses that may help to clarify.
Luke 18:9-14 (NASB)
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
This parable clearly speaks of physical position, but the point of the physical position is that it is an expression of the heart. We must remember when we pray we are coming before the Creator of the universe. We MUST approach Him in reverence and humility. God is concerned with humility of heart, and this may be displayed through our posture in prayer.
While there is no "scripturally Approved" position for praying, we don’t want to discount the importance of position. It’s difficult to be proud when you’re prostrate before Almighty God. We can pray in any position. Your posture is an expression of the heart. This well-known poem by Foss sums it up quite well.
The Prayer of Cyrus Brown
By Sam Walter Foss (1858–1911)
“THE PROPER way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude,
Is down upon his knees.”
“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight, with outstretched arms,
And rapt and upturned eyes.”
“Oh no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud:
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed.”
“It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front,
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.
“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well
Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,
“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,
My head a-p’inting down;
“An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there—
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head.”