“The people stand or kneel.” This is a favorite rubric in the Book of Common Prayer, rubrics being our directions for worship. When included in the 1979 Prayer Book, this was meant to be congregation-wide, but we, true Anglicans, decided it was personal. We each can respond as is most worshipful for us, to stand or to kneel.
The Old Testament gives many instructions for prayer and worship positions. Interestingly, one Hebrew word for worship literally means to prostrate oneself before God. This is the word, a form of “shachah”, which is found at the opening of verse 6 in Psalm 95. Verse 6 includes prostration, bowing down and kneeling. Our English translations vary, but the message is clear: in humility lower yourself before God as a sign of respect and acknowledgement of God’s greatness.
Standing most certainly is an option, and standing prayer is common today in Jewish prayer services and in our own worship. Both standing or kneeling to pray were practices of the early church.
Personally, I prefer to kneel and am compelled from within by Psalm 95 and the Christ hymn, “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” (Philippians 2:10). When I will not be praying the Great Thanksgiving on behalf of all the congregation, I most likely will be found on the kneeler in my pew, creaky knees bent as possible. At home I commend occasional prostration or at least the forehead on the ground. Waxed floors meant unplanned prostration before my bishop at ordination when the kneeler slipped forward. I recommend a more intentional moment.
When I pray Morning Prayer, I most often select the Venite which is the first seven verses of Psalm 95. Verse 6 stays inside me throughout the day.
Venite Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing to the Lord; *
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, *
and his hands have molded the dry land.
Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!
With every blessing whether you stand or kneel,