Personal Reflection: Why I Stand to Pray in Church

“The people stand or kneel.” – Book of Common Prayer, page 362

by Norma Thatcher

I began attending the Episcopal Church in 1986.

Having been raised as a Methodist, I didn’t quite get the standing, kneeling, genuflecting, crossing of oneself, etc. I simply followed the lead of those around me, just as visitors to Saint James’ do currently.

It has been a long-standing custom at Saint James’ to kneel during the prayers of the people, the Eucharistic prayer, while receiving communion, and the final prayer.

So when some of us now stand during those times, it may seem irreverent to those who have always knelt.

Do you know that the prayer book for Rite II says for those portions, “The people may STAND or kneel”?  Rite I reverses the order of the words to KNEEL or stand. Just as when the dictionary tells us a word may have more than one acceptable pronunciation, the preferred method is listed first.

Standing over kneeling calls back the ancient practice of the church and so is NOT an act against tradition. Rather, it reinforces it.

According to the Episcopal Church website, “Many believe that standing for the Eucharistic prayer emphasizes the Eucharist to be a celebration in community rather than an expression of penitence by individuals.”

So during penitential prayer or at other times when I feel the need to be “by myself with my God,” you will see me kneeling.

Otherwise, I stand in joyful celebration of the community I feel with my fellow celebrants and with my Savior.