Physical Posture of Prayer

Since we looked at a Psalm in it’s entirety yesterday, I don’t want to do that again. Instead in Psalm 141, I want to look at one verse in particular that speaks to how we should approach prayer.

May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2 NIV

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Let’s look at the again in a different version:

 May my prayer be like special perfume before You. May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening gift given on the altar in worship. (NLV)

So what is the significance of incense?

The idea is that incense or special perfume is a special offer to God. This is something that David and others would “present to God”, i.e their very best in hopes that God would hear them.

Why the evening sacrifice?

Scholars suggest that, “Now he prays that this may be set forth and directed before God as the incense which was daily burnt upon the golden altar, and as the evening sacrifice, which he mentions rather than the morning sacrifice, perhaps because this was an evening prayer, or with an eye to Christ, who, in the evening of the world and in the evening of the day, was to offer up himself a sacrifice of atonement, and establish the spiritual sacrifices of acknowledgement, having abolished all the carnal ordinances of the law” (Matthew Henry Commentary)

I just realized the picture I included yesterday foreshadowed today’s verse (I LOVE when God does that!) The physical posture that the man is displaying in this picture is much like the physical posture David took to pray.

(Here is the picture again)

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So I don’t pray like this at all. I typically assume the hands folded, head bowed, eyes closed posture, or if I’m honest usually it is just eyes-closed. But I wonder what would happen if I prayed like that, with my hands raised.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with praying to God as a conversation, and making it casual, but there is something to be said about honoring and exalting God in our prayers.

How does our attitude change when we get into a more formal posture of prayer?

For me, whenever I do get on my knees to bow and pray, just that act of humility seems to not only set fourth what I need to before the Lord, but set the tone of proper prayer in my heart as well.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6

I attend a church that often asks us to open our hands (palms facing up) to receive what God has for us in prayer, I wonder how my prayer would change if instead I looked at it offering my very best to him?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

Focus Challenge:

Your challenge then is assume a different posture of prayer that maybe you don’t normally take. When praying instead of bowing, maybe you kneel or instead of hands-folded you raise your hands to heaven. Either way as you do this, notice how taking a different physical position changes your perspective during your prayer. I would love to hear about your experiences, please comment below!

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