NASHVILLE (BP) — Years ago, while reading one of my dozens of books by Andrew Murray, I learned that our modern posture of prayer (kneeling with hands clasped with head bowed) didn’t come from Judaism but from a medieval ceremony. I undertook a study of that ceremony while writing a booklet, “Consecrate the People: Renewing Our Covenant Commitments to Jesus Christ.”
The homage ceremony
In the homage ceremony a king, lord or landowner would call his vassals or subjects before him to pledge their loyalty and obedience to their lord. The king would hold out his open hands. The subject would kneel with bowed head and place his hands inside the hands of his king. Then he would say these words, “I am your man.” (The name of the ceremony comes from the Latin word for man.)
That simple statement essentially meant, “I belong to you.” It included the obligation to obey any request of the king, even the call to battle. That pledge of obedience also included a readiness to obey even if the assignment would cost the life of the subject. It could become a pledge of obedience even unto death.
Christians were required to pledge their loyalty and obedience to their earthly king in this homage ceremony. They realized, however, they owed a higher loyalty to their Lord and King in heaven. King Jesus is seated on His throne with outstretched, nail-scarred hands. He is waiting for our surrender and pledge of loyalty and obedience to Him for the work of His kingdom. Christians in the Middle Ages began to pray while kneeling with bowed head and clasped hands. By doing so, they were able to mentally enter into the throne room of heaven, kneel before King Jesus, and pledge to Him their loyalty and obedience: “King Jesus, today, I am your man (woman). Command me, and I will obey You!”
That understanding of our common posture for prayer coupled with my study of the word consecrate, had a profound impact on my personal prayer life. One term in the Old Testament frequently translated “consecrate” is qâdâsh (kaw-dash). It means “to sanctify, cleanse, purify or make holy.” If we desire to have power with God in prayer, we must consecrate ourselves. “The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:16). Even Jesus Himself prayed for His followers, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. … I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:17, 19). If we want to be filled and empowered by His Holy Spirit, we need to be clean vessels.
Let’s pray for one another and consecrate/sanctify ourselves. Let’s go after entire consecration, not a partial consecration. That very activity will lead us toward personal and corporate revival.
Another term for consecrate is made up of two Hebrew words. The first is mâlâ (maw-law) which means “to fill up or be full of.” The second is yâd (yawd) which means “open hand.” Put these words together and the term literally means “to fill up the open hands.” The imagery for this term consecrate is a priest standing by the altar. He has open hands to receive your offering or sacrifice. As long as the sacrifice is in your hands, it belongs to you. But when you place the sacrifice into the open hands of the priest, it is consecrated to God. It belongs to God — all of it. And it becomes holy because God is holy.
In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “Brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” To the church at Corinth he writes, “Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Jesus “died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
We belong to King Jesus because He purchased us for God. Because of His mercies, we should fully surrender (present or even consecrate) our bodies and our lives to serve Him. We follow His example when we pray like Him: “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
As we come before Him to pray, our King is looking for entire consecration and full surrender to hear and obey His will. Let’s consecrate ourselves to our Lord and King in full surrender. King Jesus, I’m your man (woman). My time, plans, possessions, resources, career, family, health, future and my very life are yours. Command me today, and I will obey you.
Claude King is discipleship and church health specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is coauthor of “Experiencing God, Fresh Encounter, The Mind of Christ, Pray in Faith,” and other resources. He and his wife Reta have two daughters and three grandsons. You can download a free reproducible copy of Consecrate the People: Renewing Our Covenant Commitments to Jesus Christ here or purchase copies here. Initial articles about the Call to Prayer that Frank Page has issued to Southern Baptists for 2013 can be read here and here. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).