Why Do We Stand for Worship, and Does Sitting Make it Less Valuable?
- Hope Bolinger Author
- 2021 16 Feb
Not every church stands for worship, or at least, for the entirety of worship. Depending on which denomination you attend, you may have dance included in worship or may even have a time where you can kneel whilst simultaneously singing praises to God. But many congregations do, in some capacity, have their members stand to worship.
Although it could help us to stretch our limbs, some of us may notice our legs start to hurt after a while. Five songs in, and we may want to return to our seats.
For those with medical conditions, such as postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) or who cannot stand for long periods of time due to age, ailments, or for other reasons, may feel isolated during this time of worship. Not to mention, with COVID masking, some with lung conditions may struggle to continue to stand and sing during the entirety of worship at church.
In this article, we’ll dive into why most churches have us stand during worship, and whether it’s OK to sit during this time as well, especially with those who have a physical condition that prevents them from standing for a long period of time.
What Does the Bible Say about Worship Postures?
Before we dive into why churches now have us stand, we need to examine what the Bible has to say about how to worship. Many churches exercise liturgy for this very reason, to ensure that we stick closely to the words of Scripture.
Now, most Bible verses talk about incorporating music in worship.
Psalm 150:1-6: “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”
James 5:13: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
But what about worship positions in general?
Obviously, we see dance mentioned. But does the Bible have a preference for sitting, standing, kneeling, or bowing down?
We really don’t see any indication in the New Testament as to whether believers in the Early Church would stand or sit during their time of worship. However, we do get a hint from Psalm 95:6 on other forms of worship posture.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
It mentions kneeling and bowing down.
Of course, that’s not exactly practical in our church building space, especially during the era of COVID. But before that time frame, why don’t we see more people kneeling at worship. Why do we stand instead?
Why Do Churches Have Us Stand during Worship?
So since the Bible doesn’t explicitly mention standing during worship, why do we do it? And why don’t we stand during the sermon as well? And why do some churches have us stand for some songs, and other churches have us stand for every song?
It’s become a common mantra amongst many churches: stand to worship, sit to learn, kneel to pray.
Many churches, however, have us sit or stand to pray, as not every church has a pew that allows for kneeling space.
One of the reasons churches may have us stand to worship is that it’s an active gesture. It requires us to pull ourselves out of our seats and stand, for some of us in discomfort, for 30-40 minutes, sometimes more. Worship plays an active role, whereas, when we listen to a sermon, it isn’t as active.
The symbolism of standing also has some grounds in the idea of the Resurrection. In the early church, this posture would’ve meant a confidence in Christ’s resurrection and his second coming.
Of course, symbolism aside, it’s not always practical for people to stand for long periods of time at church. Those who are older cannot stand for five to six songs straight without, at the very least, some complaints coming from their feet. And for those with conditions mentioned above such as PoTS, it’s nearly impossible to hold a standing posture for that long without some physical repercussions such as passing out, lightheadedness, etc.
Some churches attempt to accommodate for this by having some songs in the beginning and some at the end of service. Other denominations only have the congregation rise for some songs and sit for others. But there doesn’t seem to be any consistency across the church as a whole.
Not to mention, many people in the congregation don’t have the ability to stand. Those who operate wheelchairs or who do not have the ability to stand may feel isolated from the rest of the congregation.
So can we still worship God and stay seated?
Is it Possible to Worship without Standing?
Obviously, the answer to this is yes. Those reading this likely know someone who cannot stand for long periods of time or cannot stand at all. We should allow anyone who has a medical condition that prevents them from standing the grace to worship while seated.
But for those who can stand without restraint—can they worship while sitting just as effectively?
I think the problem therein the question lies with our lack of making a distinction between true worship and liturgy. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the symbolism that we forget about the act of worship as well. People may think about how much their legs ache from standing so long rather than focusing on the words of the hymn or song.
I think, personally, it is very possible to worship God while seated. As the Bible mentions other postures such as kneeling, bowing down, and dancing during worship, we can’t force worship into a monolith category.
Nevertheless, we should consider why the church has made it a practice to stand during worship for ages. In fact, the church used to have the congregation stand for the entirety of the service for periods of history (it certainly makes me grateful for when pews entered the picture), and those services lasted for hours. And we should acknowledge that sitting often has passive associations and could potentially affect how we worship.
With this in mind, perhaps, if you find yourself focusing more on how your feet hurt rather than the words, you could kneel in the aisle or in your pew (if able) and pray during this time of worship. Or you could sit for a song to allow yourself to pay attention more to the words, rather than on how you wish you could sit.
Keep in mind that God values our hearts more than our liturgy. Psalm 51:16-17 states, “You do not delight in sacrifice,or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
This, of course, refers to the Old Covenant system of sacrifices, but the idea that God values the condition of our hearts far more than the motions we undergo in a church service speaks true. Although we stand as an active motion for worship, if you find that you have a broken and contrite heart while you sit, then that is what matters.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/JBryson
Hope Bolinger is a multi-published novelist and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,200 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.