Praying Prostrate

By Denise M. Kohlmeyer

Judgmental rooster is judgmental.

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I was on my face. Literally. Praying face down. In my bedroom. The carpet smelled musty, and it scratched my nose. But I didn't care. My pleas were more important than my physical comfort. I was praying prostrate, a position which, years ago, I had adopted to deepen my communion with God.

My every-day prayer posture is in the sitting position: on the couch with my legs extended out, resting on the ottoman, Bible on my lap, head bowed, hands folded. Other than kneeling in church as I'd done as a child, sitting was the only position in which I knew how to pray — until I read (actually re-read) the all-too familiar story of the golden calf in Deuteronomy 9.

I've read this story many, many times before, but it was verse 25 that gave me pause and leapt off the page this particular time, as if I'd never read it before. Love when that happens! "I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights," it says.

The visual of Moses lying prone on the rocky surface of Mount Sinai was a powerful picture. Here was a grown man (in his 80s, no less) who desired to please God as His chosen — albeit, reluctant — leader, and who so desperately now needed His help. His prayer position was one of utter vulnerability and humility, not only physically but spiritually. But what had brought Moses to the point of praying prostrate? What was it that had caused him to fall on his face before God, and stay that way for 40 days and nights?

Answer: intercessory prayer on behalf of the stubborn, stiff-necked people he had been called to shepherd! The Lord had wanted to annihilate Israel. "'Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they" (Deuteronomy 9:14).

Yes, harsh word to hear coming from God, but that was His attitude at the time of this passage. The people had tested Him, provoked Him to anger, been ungrateful and whining all the way throughout their desert wanderings. Then the Israelites did the unspeakable thing that pushed God beyond His limits of mercy and grace: they created another god to worship in the form of an Egyptian calf. They provoked God to jealousy (a huge no-no, Exodus 34:14), and His anger burned white-hot against them — and against Aaron too, His newly-appointed high priest, for allowing it to happen rather than taking the situation in hand and turning the people back to God. For this reason, God wanted to wipe them out altogether and start over again with His faithful servant Moses.

But Moses pleaded with God. And this is when he lay prostrate. On the rocky ground. For 40 days and nights. Neither eating nor drinking. Literally begging for lives of the people about to be consumed by God's righteous wrath. "For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you," Moses later told the Israelites. And while he didn't know these verses (since they hadn't been penned yet), Moses knew that it would be a "dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living [and angry] God" (Hebrews 10:31) because "God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29).

With this in mind, it's no wonder he fell prone. The situation warranted it. Moses wasn't ashamed to get down and dirty (literally) in a posture of utter humility and desperation for the peril of his people. And it worked. Moses' prostrate pleas were able to stay God's holy hand; and the people were spared.

There are times when praying prostrate is necessary, although it is not Scripturally prescriptive. From Moses' example, however, it seems to be a befitting position for times of intense need and intercession, either for ourselves or for others. And there are other instances in the Bible where it was practiced by others as well, by those who also found themselves in serious situations where they needed divine intervention by and intense intercession with their holy and heavenly Father.

Abraham — "When Abram was 99-years-old [again, notice his age], the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.' Then Abram fell on his face" (Genesis 17:1-3).

Israel — "And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people [of Israel] saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces" (Leviticus 9:24).

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Published on 10-10-16