Physical Positions of Worship, Praise, and Prayer
Although the physical position that a person assumes while worshiping, praising, or praying to God the Father may not seem to be a major point to worry about in the overall scheme of things, the words that are often translated as 'worship' in various English translations of the Bible seem to indicate that it is important.
The following words are often translated as worship in various English translations of the Bible:
- Hebrew, 'shaha' and 'shahah': 'to bow down', 'to lie down', or 'to be brought low.'
- Greek, 'proskuneo': 'to prostrate oneself in homage', 'to reverence', and 'to adore.'
Because of the meaning of these Hebrew and Greek words that are used to describe true worship and praise of God, it is clear that the physical positions which a person assumes during the act of worship, praise, or prayer are important. They are important because these physical positions can reflect one's attitude toward God. Therefore, it is important to review some of what is said in the Bible about this aspect of worship, praise, and prayer to God.
Although there are few specific examples in the biblical record of people standing while worshiping, praising, and praying to God, these examples do show that this is an acceptable position in which to approach God both privately and publicly in order to acknowledge him, declare his greatness, and petition him. See Ex.15:1-21; 1.Kgs.8: 22-54; 2.Chron.29:25-30; Lk.18:13-14; 19:29-40.
Bowing, Kneeling, and Raising Hands
The following are a few of the many examples of God's people kneeling, bowing, and lifting their hands toward God while worshiping, praising, and praying to him:
"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker" (Psa.95:6).
"Behold, bless you the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands, in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord" (Psa.134:1-2 KJV).
When Solomon led the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, he gave God praise and prayed to him while kneeling with his hands raised toward heaven (2.Chron.6:13-42):
"Solomon had made a bronze scaffold five cubits long, five wide and three high, and he stood on the platform and knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven" (2.Chron.6:13 Para.). See also 1.Kgs.8:54; Psa.143:5-6.
The act of raising one's hands toward God in prayer and praise seems symbolic of asking with outstretched hands with the expectation of receiving what is asked for, or of presenting something to God with the expectation of God accepting what is presented.
On two occasions, the apostle Paul knelt down with the others of the church in a formal setting and prayed with them (Acts 20:28-38; 21:3-5). In his letter to the elect at Rome, Paul quotes Isaiah:
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom.14:11). And to the Ephesians he wrote: "According to the eternal purpose which he [the Father] proposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith in him. Wherefore I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory, for this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" Eph. 3:11-14 KJV).
Every Knee Shall Bow
"I have sworn to myself, the word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to me every knee shall bow,. . ." (Isa.45:23 KJV). See also Rom.14:11.
There is no doubt from this and other prophecies that, when Jesus returns, every knee shall bow in submission to his authority and in honor and respect of him.
Speaking of the worship, honor, and respect that is owed to Jesus, Paul says:
"Wherefore God [the Father] also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil.2: 9-11).
Prostrate Oneself Before God
"The proper kind of teaching will result in people understanding their inner-being and then being convinced they need to change and worship the true God by falling upon their face before him. Because of this kind of proper conduct and teaching, they will also know that the spirit of God dwells in you Let all things be done to edifying" (1.Cor.14:24-26 Para.).
The word that is translated 'worship' in most English versions of verse 25, comes from the Greek word 'proskuneo', which means to 'prostrate oneself in homage'. Paul's reference to the repentant person falling upon his face to worship God clearly illustrates that assuming this type of position is pleasing to God and shows a submissive and respectful attitude toward him.
Paul Goes Before Felix
When Paul was brought before Felix to answer Tertullus' accusation that he was a trouble-maker and leader of those who are called Nazoreans, he said that he had indeed gone to Jerusalem to worship (i.e., prostrate himself before God), but he denied that he went there to cause trouble:
"Twelve days ago I went to Jerusalem to worship [Greek, 'proskuneo': 'prostrate'], and they neither found me arguing with any man, or causing an uprising among the people in the temple, or in the synagogues, or in the city But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, I worship [Greek, 'proskuneo': 'prostrate'] the God of my fathers, believing all the things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:11, 14 Para.).
The Book of Revelation mentions twenty-four elders who worship before God along with the heavenly host. One reason that this account is important is that these elders represent twenty-four of the Father's elect children who are giving praise to him either before or after the return of Jesus Christ:
"After this I looked, and before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."At once I was in the spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God" (Rev. 4:1-5 NIV).
"Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks [worshipful gratitude] to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev.4:9-11 NIV).
These elders prostrated themselves before God the Father and praised him by acknowledging who he is and declared his attributes and great works:
"Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. . .. You [Jesus Christ] have made them to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God [God the Father], and they will reign on the earth And the four beasts said, be it so. the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped him [God the Father] that lives forever and ever." (Rev.5:5, 8, 10, 14 NIV).
Chapter five of the Book of Revelation shows both God the Father and Jesus Christ being praised by the heavenly host and the twenty-four elders. In verses 5,8, and 10 we see praise being directed toward Jesus Christ by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders as they prostrate themselves before his throne. And in verse 14, we see God the Father being praised in the same way:
"And after these things I heard a the voice of many people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah [Praise you Ya]; Salvation, glory, honor, and power to the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he has judged the great whore, which corrupted the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Praise you Ya. And her smoke rose up forever and ever. And the twenty four elders and four living creatures fell down and worshiped God that sat on the throne, saying, be it so; praise you Ya. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you servants, and you that fear him, both small and great" (Rev.19:1-5 Para.). See also Rev.14:1-3; 15:2-3.
Although the Book of Revelation is mostly prophetic and shows the things that will come to pass during the end of this age of human rule on earth, it contains many examples of how to worship and praise God the Father and Jesus Christ. Clearly, praise to them will be given forever by those who love and serve them.
The physical act of bowing, kneeling, prostrating oneself before God, and the lifting of the hands toward him in praise and supplication mean nothing by themselves. However, if these things are done individually or collectively in a proper attitude with the intent to worship, praise, and commune with the Father, these acts are very pleasing to both the Father and Jesus Christ.
When combined with true love, respect, and submission to the Father, these physical acts help one to give him the honor, praise, and gratitude that are rightfully his to receive. It is clear from the scriptures that the act of bowing, kneeling, prostrating oneself before the Father, and the lifting of one's hands toward him while worshiping, praising, and praying to him are acceptable and very pleasing to him. It is also clear from the scriptures that these physical acts combined with worship, praise, and prayer are acceptable to him, whether they are done in private or in the formal assemblies of his elect children.
CELEBRATE AND REJOICE BEFORE GOD
The weekly Sabbath and annual festivals are not only special times of worship and praise to the Father but also times to come before the Father to celebrate and rejoice because of our special relationship with him, his Son, and his people.
The elect of God have much to celebrate and rejoice about. We should truly rejoice in the fact that we have been given an opportunity to participate in the first resurrection, called to be kings and priests in the Family of God, and promised awesome rewards in God the Father's kingdom.
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts [appointed times] of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest [the weekly cessation], an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings" (Lev.23:1-3 KJV).
Verse 1 pertains to the specific times that God set aside for sacred gatherings of his people. The first of these is noted as the weekly cessation (the Sabbath). The Sabbath is a day of festivity and a day on which people are commanded to gather in a sacred assembly to worship God. God, the Creator of time, made this specific period of time holy and he said that it belongs to him and is to be used for his divine purpose. See also Num. chaps. 28-29; Deut. chp.16; Isa.58:13.
Three Festival Seasons
"Three times you shall keep a feast [celebration] to me in the year. You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread: (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it you came out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God" (Ex.23:14-17 KJV).
In these verses, the English word feast is a translation from the Hebrew word hag, which is used to denote keeping a feast or celebrating a holiday. It normally describes the three seasonal pilgrimage festivals of God (i.e., the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering). The noun hag means pilgrim-feast or holiday (a day or season of religious joy).
Solomon was inspired to say that "A feast is made for laughter and wine makes merry" (Ecc.10:19 KJV). The festivals of God are not to be like every other day of the week: They are to be looked forward to with anticipation and preparation, because one is coming before the Sovereign God and his Son to fellowship and celebrate with them on days that have great meaning in the plan for the salvation of all humanity: past, present, and future.
The following two examples of the instruction to rejoice in the seven-day feast of the seventh month clearly show that rejoicing is a major part of the festivals of God:
1. "And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Lev.23:40 KJV). See Nehe.8:14-18.
The English word rejoice in verse 40 is translated from the Hebrew word sameah, which means to be joyful and to be merry. Sameach comes from the root s-m-h, which denotes being glad or joyful with one's whole being. The usage of the word rejoice indicates that this festival was to be a feast of great joy and merry-making. It was to be a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving before the Lord for the blessings of the past year.
2. "You shall observe the feast of tabernacles [i.e,.shelters/Ingathering] seven days, after that you have gathered in your grain and your wine: And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a solemn feast to the Lord your God in the place where he shall choose; because the Lord your God shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the works of your hands; therefore, you shall surely rejoice" (Deut.16:13-15 KJV). See also Deut.14:23-27.
The Israelites had a great deal to rejoice about throughout the year, because they lived under the guidance and protection of the Creator God. As they came to these very special days, they were to remember and rejoice in the fact that they were the only people on the earth that God claimed as his children and his personal treasure that he would bless and care for. They were also the only people on earth whom God had chosen to be his representatives to other nations. The Father's elect children today have even more to rejoice about than the ancient Israelites because they have been given many more blessings and promises from him and his Son.
"Glory you in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually (1.Chron.16:10-11 KJV).
The English word Glory in this verse is translated from the Hebrew word halal, which means I shine. In the context of this verse, the concept of this word connotes the state of having a bright and cheery disposition that expresses joy and happiness. It is this kind of happiness and cheerful disposition that our Father and our Savior want us to have while observing the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals.
The following are a few of the many exhortations in the Psalms to rejoice because of God's love, mercy, salvation, and care for his children:
"Serve the Lord [the Father] with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [Jesus Christ], lest he becomes angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled a little. Blessed are they that put their trust in him" (Psa.2:11-12 KJV). See also Psa.33:21.
In this prophetic psalm, we are told to have deep feelings of reverence and respect for God the Father, while standing in awe of him. We are also told to rejoice before him in deep awareness of the powerful being that we serve. Those who understand and comply with this awesome truth are truly blessed because they trust in the great love and mercy that the Father and his Son have for them:
"Let all who put their trust in you be joyful: let them always give a joyful shout, because you defend them, and let them that love your name rejoice in you" (Psa.5:11 Para.).
The apostle Paul also expressed this same thought when he said:
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom.8:31 KJV).
"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart" (Psa.32:11 KJV). See also Psa. 33:1.
Both Jesus and Paul spoke of the need for the children of God to rejoice, because of the blessings that were promised to them for their belief in God and service to him.
On one occasion, Jesus told his disciples to rejoice and be very happy that they were going to receive a great reward in heaven for their efforts. On another occasion, Jesus told his disciples to rejoice because their names were written in heaven (Matt.5:12; Lk.10:20).
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul exhorted those who had labored with him in his ministry of the gospel to stand fast in the Lord and to always rejoice in the Lord, because their names were written in the Book of Life (Phil.4:1-4). And in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul exhorted them to rejoice in the truth (1.Cor.13:6).
The elect of God of all ages have these things and more to rejoice about, because they have been given an opportunity of awesome proportions that is only afforded to a very few among the billions of humans that have existed or will ever exist.
WORSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP
God's children today are his temple where his spirit dwells and they can worship and praise him in private on the festivals if they want to do so; however, the scriptures clearly show the festivals are days of a commanded assembly to worship, praise, fellowship, celebrate, and feast. There are many benefits to be derived from assembling together, which is noted by the writer to the Hebrews:
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful who promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more, as you see the day approaching" (Heb.10:23-25 KJV). See also Mal.3:16-18.
A major factor that should contribute to one's enjoyment and spiritual growth is that of being with others whom God has called to salvation, because as "Iron sharpens Iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Pro.27:17 KJV).
Assembling together to share experiences, build friendships, praise God, and hear God's truth and ways spoken of in a formal structured setting can be extremely enjoyable and rewarding.
First Things First:
On the Sabbath and the annual festival days, one should set one's mind to think about God, his love, and his plan and purpose for humanity. Moreover, one should plan to speak to him in prayer, study his word, and examine one's spiritual condition while seeking to please him with one's spiritual growth and development. If one does these things, one will be keeping the spirit of the festivals.
The key to enjoying the festivals while pleasing the Father and his Son is to balance physical and spiritual activities so that these days are a beneficial and uplifting experience.
The fact that there is a problem finding a balance is the very reason the Pharisees felt they had to legislate many restrictive rules concerning the Sabbath and the annual festival observances. These people did not have God's spirit to give them the wisdom they needed to make judgments about what was right or wrong, but a child of God does have this ability; a child of God only needs to exercise this ability to accomplish a positive outcome. See 1.Cor.4:10;10:14-15; 12:7-8; Jms.1:5.
If one places one's energy and thoughts selfishly toward one's own business, entertainment, or recreation above the spiritual intent of God's weekly and annual festivals, one will miss out on the blessings of these days.
One should be at peace in one's mind on these sacred festivals and remember that the law of God is not a law of bondage; it is the law of liberty, which brings true freedom.
The weekly and annual festivals should be a positive experience, both physically and spiritually. One should work hard at making these days profitable, both physically and spiritually. When a festival day ends, one should be both physically and spiritually refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of daily life.
PREPARATION FOR THE FESTIVALS
In order to receive the maximum benefit from God's festivals, one should have a plan for the day. The festivals are holy time; therefore, the first priority should be things that are spiritual in nature: communing with God, praying, studying, and attending formal worship assemblies, if possible. If these things are our priorities, we will be observing these days as God intended.
From the few instructions given in scripture concerning how to observe the Sabbath and the annual festivals, it becomes clear that these days should be prepared for in order to eliminate or, at least, minimize activities that tend to distract one from the intended purpose of the Sabbath and the annual festivals.
The first indication that one should prepare for the weekly festival of the Sabbath is recorded in Exodus 16:4-5, 23-30. In this example, the children of Israel are instructed to gather extra manna before the weekly Sabbath.
In the New Testament account of the crucifixion of Jesus, we see a number of references which show that, during Christ's lifetime, the sixth day of the week was being used to prepare for the weekly Sabbath (Mk.15:42-46; Lk.23:53-54).
Preparation for the festivals is an important part of being able to make these days enjoyable and physically and spiritually beneficial. If one plans for these days by taking care of normal everyday chores in preparation for these days, one will be free to pursue activities that rejuvenate the body, the spirit, and the mind.
From what we have reviewed about what God the Father expects in worship and praise of him, it is apparent that he and his son are very pleased when we observe and celebrate his festivals correctly. It is also clear that there are many things that we can do during these festivals to properly worship and praise him and show our gratitude for the awesome opportunity that he has given us.
Pleasing the Father
In order to be in harmony with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and their plan for our lives, we should always strive to do the things that please them. Jesus, whose example we are to follow said, "And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I always do the things that please him" (Jn.8:29 Para.). The apostle Paul said, "Finally brethren, we urge and encourage you by the Lord Jesus to live as we instructed you, so that you will please the Father and greatly prosper" (1.Thes.4:1 Para.). The writer to the Hebrews said that God rewards those who diligently seek him (i.e., seek to please him) (Heb.11:6). And Ezra the priest encouraged the people of God to do the things that pleased God (Ezr. 10:11). See also 2.Tim.2:4.
If we obey the Father's law and ask him for guidance through his holy spirit as we study and meditate on his word, the question of how to please God the Father and Jesus Christ in our worship and service to them in order to receive the blessings that are promised is easily answered (Matt. 7-11).
"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1.Jn.3:22 KJV).
Praise, Gratitude, and Supplication
How, when, where, and why the elect of God practice the acts of praise, gratitude, and supplication to the Father and his Son are extremely important aspects of the spiritual growth process, because the practice of these things is a reflection of an attitude and desire to please the Father and his Son and enter into the divine Family and Kingdom of God. When the following three acts of praise, gratitude, and supplication are practiced properly by the Father's children, they are extremely pleasing to him:
- The act of praise: the acknowledgment and declaration of God the Father's and Jesus Christ's many attributes and great works.
- The act of gratitude: the acknowledgment and declaration of God the Father's and Jesus Christ's great mercy, grace, love, and the benefits that they have bestowed.
- The act of supplication: the asking of the Father through the authority of Jesus Christ for something in accordance with the promises that he and his Son have made, and in accordance with the Father’s will and purpose.
These acts of praise, gratitude, and supplication can all be expressed to the Father and his Son as separate audible or silent thoughts, either individually and privately or publicly and collectively in an assembly of the elect of God.
Whether it is in a private or a formal setting the worship of God is to be a thoughtful and heartfelt projection of one's genuine feelings toward God. Because the worship of God is an individual, as well as a collective matter, each person must decide for themselves through prayer to the Father, Bible study, and meditation on God's word what constitutes proper physical and spiritual worship and behavior before God. Not only must one consider their own relationship with God but also how their worship and behavior affects other people in and out of the body of Christ. Using the word of God as a guide, each person can and must make their own decision as to what constitutes a proper relationship with the Father and his Son.
By B.L. Cocherell b5w73