Christian Living

Let Us Pray: Fold Your Hands, Close Your Eyes, and Bow Your Head

Discover a Biblical Perspective for Prayer

My parents taught me the proper posture for prayer: to fold your hands, close your eyes, and bow your head. These emerged as three steps I must take before I talked to God. I inferred that if I didn’t do all three, the Almighty would not hear me or answer my prayers.

This perspective is standard in church and permeates society. Most everyone, both the churched and unchurched, knows to close their eyes and bow their heads when someone else prays. And many also fold their hands.

There are practical reasons, I suppose, to teach kids to do these three things when they pray.

Fold Your Hands

Children with hands folded keep them from wayward action. This might prevent them from poking their sibling without their parents’ watchful eyes to stop them or popping food into their mouth before the meal’s blessing is complete.

Hands folded are hands not getting into trouble.

But I wonder if raised arms and open hands might be a preferred action.

Close Your Eyes

Keeping our eyes shut removes us from distraction, which helps us focus on God and the words of the prayer—at least in theory. This doesn’t work for me.

If I close my eyes when hearing a prayer made in public, I have one concern: what’s happening around me that I can’t see? This is especially true at restaurants. If I’m the one praying, I make it as short as possible to minimize my distress in not knowing what those moving about are doing. And when others pray, I silently implore them to finish fast. I seldom connect with or even hear these prayers.

My solution is to pray with eyes open. This works best for me.

Bow Your Heads

To lower our heads during prayer portrays reverence.

As a young child, I know one man in our church who did the opposite. During our minister’s congregational prayer each Sunday, this man raised his head, as if gazing toward heaven. I saw this as the ultimate sign of worship. I admired him for it.

How do I know this? Simple, I kept my eyes open during the prayer. But my parents didn’t know this because they kept theirs closed.

What Does the Bible Say?

Scripture never tells us to do any of these three physical acts before we pray.

When Jesus’s disciples asked them to teach them how the pray, he didn’t begin by saying to first fold your hands, close your eyes, and bow your heads (Luke 11:1-4). He simply began talking to Papa, “Our father . . .” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Notice that in both biblical accounts of Jesus giving his followers a prayer to emulate, there is not in “amen” at the end. This is another thing to contemplate as we reform our prayers.

The Intent of Prayer

The goal of prayer is communicating with God. Our physical carriage is not an issue. Our connection with our Creator is. Our words matter so much more than our physical positioning, like to fold your hands.

When we pray, we can fold our hands or raise our arms. We can close our eyes or keep them open. We can bow our heads, gaze towards heaven, or do neither.

When we pray, we should adopt whatever posture will best allow us to talk with God. This is the right way to pray.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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