Q&A: Praying in a Prostrate Position - Matthew 26:39

Praying in a Prostrate Position - Matthew 26:39

Question

In Islam one prays bending their faces to the ground. Did Jesus follow and teach the Islamic method of praying?

Answer

Matthew 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Posture

In Islam, one prays in using various positions including bending their heads toward the ground (by this we mean bending at the waist and having one's face looking toward the ground). Muslims pray a ritualistic prayer called salah or salat in Arabic, facing the Kaaba in Mecca, five times a day. Islam asserts Jesus taught/demonstrated this method of prayer in Matthew 26:39 (Islam 101 - Muslim at Prayer and How to Pray).

First, in Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:35, we are told Jesus fell with his head (face) toward the ground and he prayed. However, does Scripture reveal other ways God's people prayed?

Kneeling - 1 Kings 8:54; Daniel 6:10 (and prayed three times per day); Acts 7:60, 20:36; Ephesians 3:14; Philippians 2:9-11.
Standing - 2 Chronicles 20:5.
Facedown - Numbers 16:22, 20:6; Joshua 5:14; Revelation 7:11.
Hands Raised - Psalms 134:2, 141:2.

The fact that Jesus prayed using this posture does not mean that he always did so. God is more interested in a prostrated heart than he is a prostrated body. Moreover, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15 he did not specify any posture at all.

Time

Although in Islam one may pray anytime, there are specific times one "must" pray: Fajr (pre-dawn), Dhuhr (noon), 'Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (sunset), and 'Isha (evening). However, in the Bible God does not give his people specific times to pray, i.e., the hour, the minute, the second, etc. We find Jesus and the disciples praying at different times of the day. The prayer of Jesus in our text is around midnight and beyond (it was already night when he began - John 13:30).

Jesus is not teaching Islamic Prayer

Jesus addressed, "his Father" in Matthew 26:39, which is not from any Islamic traditional formula of prayer. Allah's 99 names do not even include God as Father. "There is nothing like male Allah or female Allah. Allah has no gender. If you add the word 'father' to 'God' it becomes 'God-father'. God-father means someone who is a guardian. There is no word like 'Allah-Abba' or 'Allah-father'" (Naik). Allah also has no son - "Allah has not taken any son, nor has there ever been with Him any deity. [If there had been], then each deity would have taken what it created, and some of them would have sought to overcome others. Exalted is Allah above what they describe [concerning Him]" (23.91).

Jesus was NOT praying an Islamic prayer. Jesus prayed to his Father, not Allah or Muhammad.

Jesus taught his people - his Church - how to pray:

Matthew 6:5-15 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Please see Christianity and Islam Contrasted.


Reference

Naik, Zakir. Islam 101 - Concept of God in Islam, www.islam101.org.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).