I grew up bowing my head, eyes closed and hands clasped, to pray. Over the course of my walk with God, however, I have gradually acknowledged that no part of that posture is necessary. In history I learned that Stonewall Jackson prayed while riding his horse. In my own pew, I observed my mother dealing with my youngest siblings before they were old enough to understand that “let’s pray” meant they needed to be quiet. Neither of these situations allows for closed eyes or clasped hands. In a war torn countryside, it’s doubtful that General Jackson kept his head bowed either.
I also learned that bowing in respect to Almighty God was more of a heart thing than a posture thing. Have you parents ever had a child who sat when told, but you could tell they were still standing on the inside? Have you ever been that child? Well, sometimes we bow our heads, but our minds and hearts are so full of other things, that we might as well be walking out the door already. Bowing your head ought really to be an outward sign of an inward reality, but instead, it has become a form, a traditional posture, that can be easily mimicked. So posture is not the key to prayer. But that doesn’t answer the original question. Now jump forward to my late teens.
That’s when I met my Father God.
Sure, I already knew He was my father, but it wasn’t until my teens that I recognized something important. I began to understand that God loves for His children to come gladly running to meet Him, whether in prayer, or devotions, or in going about His work. My prayers became much more familiar, like I would talk to my earthly father. And I began to look upward while praying.
You see, while I picture the Spirit as being inside me, and Jesus walking beside me, God the Father is in Heaven, so when talking to Him, I wanted to look toward Him, trusting like a little girl instead of hanging my head like a condemned sinner. Yes, I still bow my head in reverence sometimes. I also bow it in shame at others, but I am learning to bring everything to my Heavenly Father with confidence (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16; Romans 8:14-17).
So when I pray, and often while I listen to others pray, I look toward heaven. I do tend to close my eyes, as that helps cut down on distraction, but looking up helps me remember that I am now a child of God, and He loves to involve His children in His work. So I encourage you to step back and see if you bow your head simply because that’s what everyone does, or if you do it with a good reason. I also encourage you that God is a Father who loves you, wants to hear from you, and wants to talk to you. He desires fellowship, and I’ve always found that’s easiest with people if I look at them. Why should fellowship with God be so different? After all, He walked with Adam, didn’t He?
I look forward to the day when we walk with Him on golden streets, and can look Him in the eye. What joy that uninterrupted fellowship will be!