I. Principle of Humble Composure (3:14)
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father”
The first principle is to pray with a humble composure, which means one is meek in heart and gives honor to God.
This becomes much more clear when the Epistle to the Ephesians is put into its proper historical and cultural context.
A. The historical and cultural factors clarify the principle of humble composure. In the ancient Greek world, bowing one’s knees to another was a sign of submission. Servants would kneel before a monarch to show honor, respect and proper humbleness before their masters. In other cases, supplicants fell to their knees to express meekness before a deity.
Likewise, in the Old Testament bowing one’s knees paid homage to a monarch, or superior (Cf. 1 Chr. 29:20). It can also mean paying homage directly to God, as when the Psalter bows before God his maker (Ps. 95:6). A surprising aspect of this principle is that it will continue into the Messianic age (Isa. 45:23).
The New Testament boasts of many examples of praying on one’s knees. For example, before His passion, Jesus prayed on His knees upon the Mount of Olives (Lk. 22:41). A further example includes Stephen’s prayer in Acts 7:60, when he fell to his knees and shouted, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Finally, Paul in Philippians 2:10 awaits the day when everyone will bow their knees to Christ.
B. The issue is humility and not the posture of one’s prayer. Given the above, there is good reason to suppose that praying on one’s knees before the Father is a fine example to follow in prayer. However, it is probably too much to say with William Hendrikson, “the slouching position of the body while one is supposed to be praying is an abomination to the Lord.”
It should be kept in the mind that the position one’s body is in is not in itself what makes this principle beneficial. After all, Scripture expresses of all sorts of ways people pray. For example, Ezra lays prostrate while praying to God in Ezra 9:5; or, take the tax collector who prays standing up in Luke 18:13. Clearly, then, it is not the posture of man that God values, but what his posture discloses about the heart. When Paul bows his knees to the Father in Ephesians 3:14, he does so in humility, giving all honor to the Father. Who better to show respect to than the one who by his authority names every family in heaven and on earth (Eph. 3:15)?
Our prayers should be properly humble.