Psalm 95 calls us to “Worship and bow down.” Worship, no problem, but what about bowing down? Many people like to stand up and look up. Bowing down is no longer part of our culture: it is a sign of submission.

But should the Scriptural call to bow or kneel be dismissed as an ancient, antiquated culture? Like the Israelites (Numbers 16:22), Daniel (Daniel 6:10), or the Apostles (Acts 21:5)? And is heaven too far away (Revelation 7:11; 11:16) to use as an example?

During and after the Reformation, in Protestant churches in Frankfurt, Strasbourg, London, Geneva, and Glasgow, people kneeled in the worship service.

In his Institutes (III.20.33,) John Calvin wrote: “As for bodily gestures customarily observed in praying, such as kneeling and uncovering the head, they are exercises whereby we try to rise to a greater reverence for God.” Interestingly, we still practice uncovering the head during prayer but not kneeling.

I have been in Anglican and Lutheran churches with kneeling benches at the back of the pews (sometimes attached, making a noise when they are used.) Although not everyone may kneel due to personal circumstances, Calvin commented they can still pray! (Institutes, IV.10.31.)

Perhaps a new or renovated Reformed church building could also include kneeling benches? Singing Psalm 95 and reading about Israel, Daniel, Solomon, Nehemiah, the Apostles, or Revelation: kneeling would make sense, also to any guests, but it might rock the boat of our tradition. Or is kneeling part of our tradition?


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