man kneeling in front of cross
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Stooping, kneeling and bowing are the actions of humble people. Maybe they are servants, supplicants, or saviors. Standing, towering, and reigning are the actions of proud people. Perhaps they are kings, bosses, or bullies. You can read in their body language who is who.
Worshiping in the Episcopal church, I kneel for confession and communion, but I stand for the rest of the liturgy. Some in the congregation kneel at other times, but being new to the faith, I never got the hang of that. Besides, I came to God as a proud atheist, and I don’t really like abasing myself.
When I pray at home, I sit upright in a chair for Christian meditation. I only kneel to pray in moments of despair. Over the 27 years I have been a Christian, God has been working to soften not only my stony heart but my ramrod posture.
The other night, the Holy Spirit made a big push and set up a divine encounter with my local Muslim community. I went to break the Ramadan fast with my friend Stephenie at our town’s Islamic Center.
The humility of Muslim prayer posture impressed me most. Who can be uppity when they are barefoot? Who can be proud when they are face-down on the floor with their backsides up? I saw total surrender to the deity. I saw worshipers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity. In my church we leave a polite gap between us, and though we are glad to have a full church on Christmas and Easter, we don’t like having to give up our personal space on those joyous occasions. Muslim prayer opened my eyes, even though I understood none of the Arabic the imam intoned.
Next day at church, I bent the knee happily when it came time to confess and to receive the bread and wine. Somehow my own prayer posture took on a depth I hadn’t noticed before. I was humbled, and I was proud to be humbled. I know that sounds paradoxical, but I felt gratified to have overcome a stumbling block that has plagued me—my prideful reluctance to bow or kneel. For this progress I thank God and my Muslim sisters and brothers.

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