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Why do we bow our heads to pray?
This is the first spiritual minded question I remember asking. I was seven years old and attending my first extended time away from home – two weeks at a Christian summer camp. One time after our nightly devotions I finally had to know. I mustered up my courage to asked the college age boy why we bowed our heads when God was up in heaven.
“It’s an act of humility and repentance.” That was his answer and after all these years, I still think that is a fine answer.
Is there a problem with bowing our heads?
Inherently there is no problem with this act, but I think that there is attitude behind this act that keeps people from God. When we bow our heads, many are displaying a belief that they are unworthy of coming before God. “I will not look up because I don’t deserve even to approach you with anything.”
How long do we need to confess our sins before we can approach God?
This is a question that haunts most of us. We do something we know is wrong, and we don’t go to the source of our forgiveness because we feel we don’t deserve it. When we finally do pray, we get stuck in guilt and shame slowing down our acceptance of God’s forgiveness. “I don’t feel bad enough for what I have done.” “God has already forgiven me of this before. Surely He’s not ready to forgive me so quickly.” How do you approach God after you sinned?
How do you interpret Hebrews 4:16?
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16
Let nothing get in your way of going to God. Run into His presence. Get to where God is. Do you have something to confess? Fine, just wait until you get to where God is.
You will never get yourself to a place where you are humble enough to enter in God’s presence. If you are looking for the right amount of penitence, you will never get there. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sin. If we try to do it ourselves, it will only lead us away from God.
Go to God. If He wants you to confess something, allow Him to convict your heart. Then confess it and receive His forgiveness. Focus on His love covering over all your unrighteousness.
Where was this confidence in the Scriptures?
Peter (John 21)! He denies Jesus three times right before the crucifixion. After Jesus was raised, we find Peter fishing. Jesus shows up and what does Peter do? Does he quickly confess? No! Peter jumps off the boat and swims to Jesus. Does Jesus ask for the confession right away? No. Jesus asks him to get some of the fish he caught and then gave him breakfast. Finally Jesus brings out the issue at hand and heals the relationship.
It is in the presence of God where our guilt and shame get burned off of us. We don’t have to strive for it. In God’s presence we not only ask for forgiveness but receive it seeing that God is not angry with us.
I still think it is important to bow our heads in reverence to God, but let us not refrain from boldly approaching His throne for it is there we find our grace and help.
- What is the first spiritual question you remember having?