Kneeling in Prayer


Kneeling in Prayer

January 14th, 1979 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 20:36-38

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 20:36-38

1-14-79       8:15 a.m.


And once again welcome to the thousands of you who listen to this early service on radio.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Kneeling in Prayer.  In our preaching through the Book of Acts, the twentieth chapter concludes with these verses:

And when Paul had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,

Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

[Acts 20:36-38]


At Miletus, from whence he went down to his final and last visit to Jerusalem where he was arrested and sent to Rome, finally, for the trial of his life [Acts 25:12]; but our text, “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all” [Acts 20:36].

A stranger from Great Britain visited the Continental Congress.  And eager to see George Washington, he said to a man there in the hall, “Which one of these is George Washington?”  And the stranger replied to the visitor, he said, “When the Congress goes to prayer; the one that kneels is General George Washington.”

In the Holy Scriptures, it is a blessing in itself thus to make a study of those who knelt in prayer.  We begin with Elijah in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of 1 Kings on Mount Carmel:

Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up . . . for there is a sound of abundance of rain.

So [Ahab] went up . . . and Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,

And he said to his servant, Go and look toward the sea. And the servant went up, and looked, and came back and said, There is nothing.  And he said, Go again and then again and again.

And it came to pass at the seventh time, that the servant said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, and say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.

And it came to pass in a meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.

[1 Kings 18:41-45]

That’s one of the most astonishing instances of answered prayer of God honoring a man’s faith that you could ever read in the Bible, or ever experience in human life, or ever read in human story.  It had not rained for three and a half years [Luke 4:25, James 5:17].  The drought was terribly severe.  Literally, the sky was brass and the earth was iron.  Three and a half years it had not rained. But Elijah says to Ahab, the king, “Get thee up; for there is a sound of abundance of rain” [1 Kings 18:41].  And having said it, Elijah went up to the top of Mt. Carmel and fell down before the Lord with his face between his knees [1 Kings 18:42].  That is, he prayed like this.  There wasn’t any sound of abundance of rain except in the heart of that prophet.  There was no cloud in the sky.  The earth was burned, and dry, and the heavens were empty.  But this man of God made the announcement, “There is a sound of abundance of rain,” and God honored it [1 Kings 18:41, 45].  I’ve always had the conviction that God honors tremendous faith.

One time I read, “So great was the faith of Columbus that there was a land on the other side of the Atlantic, that had there been no America, there would have been one invented by the Lord God just to honor so great a faith.”  So Elijah knelt and prayed, and there was no answer.  A second time, a seventh time and the servant says there is a cloud the size of a man’s hand [1 Kings 18:44].  And soon the heavens were filled with the stormy tempest of the falling water [1 Kings 19:45]; kneeling in prayer, God honoring the faith, the marvelous faith of a prophet of God [1 Kings 18:42].

And I think that’s the way God does; I say to our people, and especially in these days, it seems to me when I walk around this church, I walk in the midst of miracles; God confirming His word by signs and wonders.  And as marvelous and as miraculous as the hands of God forming the life of a new baby; no less miraculous is it when we sit here in the congregation, when we pray, when we sing our invitation hymn, and people are born into the kingdom of God, confirming His Word by the baring of His great mighty arm from heaven.  Elijah knelt in prayer [1 Kings 18:42-44; James 5:18].

I turn the pages of the Bible, and I read in this blessed Book of Chronicles.  Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel.  And he kneeled down upon his knees before all Israel and spread forth his hands toward heaven.  And he said:

Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of the heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have built!

But O God have respect unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication.  Hearken unto my cry . . .

Let Thine eyes be open upon this house day and night, upon the place whereof Thou hast said You would put Your name there . . .

Hearken therefore unto the supplications of Thy servant, and to Thy people, which they shall make toward this place: hear Thou from Thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when You hear, forgive.

[2 Chronicles 6:18-21]

And then you have that marvelous verse in 7:14, “If My people called by My name” [2 Chronicles 7:14], praying that God will sanctify, and hallow, and bless, and use this house that “we dedicate unto Thee” [2 Chronicles 6:12-42].  And Solomon prayed that prayer down upon his knees [2 Chronicles 6:13].

So we pray that the God in heaven shall look down upon us as we consecrate to Him all of these vast facilities.  Lord, bless every brick in every wall.  Bless Thou every department and classroom where we open God’s Word and teach God’s message.  And bless the convocations of our people all through the days of the week when they meet in these many and varied activities.  And then, Lord, when we come into Thy house, consecrate and hallow for Thy glory every time and every service we meet together in this sanctuary.

We have here a vast outlay.  Our church now is covered over five blocks.  There’s something like thirty million dollars worth of properties in this tremendous sanctuary with its supporting plant and organization and all of these buildings to help us glorify God.  Now, Lord, use it all.  Consecrate it all.  We dedicate all of it unto Thee.

I turn the pages of the Bible, and I read now in Psalm 95:

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving . . .

For the Lord is a great God, He is a great King . . .

In His hand are the deep places of the earth . . .

O come, let us worship and bow down:  let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.

[Psalm 95:1-7]

All of that is in the plural, all of it.

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving . . .

Let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God; and we are the sheep of His pasture, and the people of His hand.

[Psalm 95:1-7]

There is private Bible reading.  There is also public Bible reading.  There is private prayer.  There is also public prayer.  There is private worship.  There is also public worship.  And we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together [Hebrews 10:25].  Let us come before the Lord, and let us bow down before our great God and King.  And let us kneel before the Lord our Maker [Psalm 95:6].

This is a part of the strength that we find in the will of our Lord, that we be together.  We need each other.  We encourage each other.  And when we separate ourselves from the house of the Lord and the brethren and sisters that we know in Jesus, we finally atrophy in our souls.  Together we strengthen each other in the faith, and God is pleased when we in His name sing, and rejoice, and kneel down, and worship our great God and Maker; kneeling in prayer [Psalm 95:6].

I turn the pages of the Bible.  Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, whoever called on any god except the name of the king would be thrown into the den of lions [Daniel 6:6-9], “When he knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled down upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before God, as he did aforetime” [Daniel 6:10].  That was his habit.  Three times every day he knelt down upon his knees, and he thanked God.

What did he have to thank God about?  Dear me, he was a slave.  He was a eunuch in a foreign land [Daniel 1:1, 3-7].  His country had been destroyed.  His city had been burned with fire.  The temple, the house of God, had been completely destroyed, ruined [Jeremiah 52:17].  Yet he kneels down upon his knees three times a day and gave thanks to God, as he had always done.  And he opened his window toward Jerusalem [Daniel 6:10].  Let’s thank God on our knees for our country, and for our state, and for our city, and for the blessings of the Lord God upon us.

One of the things that has delighted my heart in these recent days has been the invitation of our new Governor Clements that I come down and on Tuesday at 10 o’clock begin the inaugural services with an address.

Thanking God, we do, we shall for our state, for our country, for our city of Dallas.  Dr. Truett used to say, I’ve heard him say it several times, “I am a citizen of no mean city,” quoting the apostle Paul as he spoke of his citizenship in Tarsus [Acts 21:39], the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia.  So this man Daniel, God’s prophet-statesman, with his window toward Jerusalem, thanking God three times every day down on his knees [Daniel 6:10].  I turn the pages of the Bible.  In Luke 22:

Jesus was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and He kneeled down, and prayed,

Saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.

And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.

And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

[Luke 22:41-44]

Praying in an hour of great crisis down on His knees.

There’s no one of us, there’s no one of us but that experiences these crises in our lives.  They inevitably come.  They inexorably come.  What do we do in the face of them?  Tragedy, sorrow, disappointment, frustration, illness, death; what do we do?

We do what our Lord did.  He knelt down and prayed, asking God’s help and giving Himself to the will of the Lord, asking God to remove so awesome a judgment; death on the cross.  It was the Father’s will that He drink the cup, but before He drank it, He knelt down and prayed [Luke 22:41-44].

We can do that and it’s the greatest privilege of our lives to do it.  In the hour of tremendous need, kneel down and pray.  And an angel came from heaven and strengthened Him [Luke 22:43].  And an angel will come down from God and strengthen you when you kneel down to pray.

And in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, I read:

And they stoned Stephen, as he called upon God, saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit.

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

[Acts 7:59-60]

That’s a beautiful Christian word for “he died.”  He fell asleep, he fell asleep in the Lord.  And he kneeled down and prayed saying, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” [Acts 7:60].  Loving everybody, praying for our enemies; did you know hatred and bitterness is a poison in your soul?  It’ll eat your heart out.  It will destroy your spirit and your life; ask God to deliver you from it.  All of us have that tendency to return evil for evil. “I hate him.”  It hurts you, it kills you; it’s a poison.  Jesus said, “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that despise you” [Matthew 5:44].

If you salute those that salute you what do you more than others?  If we are going to be just like the world and the citizens of the kingdom of Satan and darkness, why the presence, and love, and mercy of God?  No.  They stoned Stephen, but as they did, he kneeled down and prayed, saying, “Lord forgive them.  Lay not this sin to their charge.” And he fell asleep in the Lord [Acts 7:59-60].  Ask God to deliver you from bitterness and retaliation and hatred.

“And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all” [Acts 20:36].  And they wept and kissed each other and sorrowed at the separation; kneeling down, loving God’s people [Acts 20:37-38].  Oh, how I pray, pray, pray!  How earnestly I supplicate God that we can be like that in our church, loving people.

You know, I sometimes wonder if you were lonely or maybe had fallen and were seeking company, or help, or encouragement, I wonder if you went to a bar, would they be more sympathetic with you, and more understanding, and more friendly, and kinder to you, and more welcoming than if you went to church?  I often wonder at that.  I know one thing about it: if you went to the bar or the joint, there’d be no condemnation there.  There’d be understanding and I think there’d be welcome.  But if you went to the church, I don’t know; I have the feeling that you’d find condemnation and un-understanding.

Isn’t that an awful thing that the world would be kinder to you than the people in God’s house?  That they’d be more sympathetic, that they’d open their arms and maybe welcome you and help you, but I don’t know about the church.  Dear God, dear God, when I run across—and I do it once in a while; “I came down there to your church and I didn’t feel at home; I didn’t feel welcome,  nobody spoke to me, nobody welcomed me”—ah, I’d just die in my soul!

Man, man, listen to me!  Let’s put our arms around these people; we all need God, and how are we going to find Him except with the Lord’s people who know His name?  They are lost; and they’re in darkness, and many of them are in trouble, and they have great needs.  And there’s nobody comes here but seeking something.  Let them find it in our love, and grace, and goodness, and prayers, and forgiveness, and welcome, “Man, we’re so glad to have you!  We’re so delighted you’ve come.  We’re so glad to see you.  What’s your name?  Where did you come from?  What are you doing?”  And all of the things that enter into our deepening interest in people.

He knelt down, and prayed with them all, and they wept together, sorrowing because of the separation when Paul left [Acts 20:36-38].  O Lord, I would to God our church was such that people would say, “That’s the most marvelous place to go you ever could know in your life!  Do you have troubles?  That’s the place to go.  Do you have needs?  That’s the place to go.  Would you like to find friends and have people love you and encourage you?  That’s the place to find it.  Go there!”

O Lord, how I could pray for that.  I met a young fellow on the street, a tall, good-looking young fellow.  I wonder if he’s here this morning.  He’s going to try to come to Sunday school today.  I met him on the street.  He’s been married.  Now he’s divorced; now he’s seeking and searching.  And I said, “God sent me just to run into you on the street.  You come here tomorrow.”  And I took him over there and showed him where to go in our Singles division, up there on the eighth floor.  “There you will find people who are just like you, and they’ll love you, and they’ll welcome you, and they will make you so glad that you came.”

O God, I hope that’s true.  If he comes up there this morning, I pray that’s true.  They’ll put their arms around him.  They’ll say, “Man, we’re so glad to have you.  This is the greatest place in the world to be.”

Kneeling down and praying in love and sympathy with them all.  “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” [Ephesians 3:14], the passage that you read in the third of Ephesians.  “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And then he prayed that you, “Be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…that you might know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” [Ephesians 3:16, 17, 19], the praying for strength and for a blessing upon the whole family of God. Do you know, do you know, when you go back in life, sometimes little ol’ things will stay in your memory and a thousand tremendous and big things are just forgotten blotted out?  Isn’t that strange how your life is?

Here’s one in mine.  We lived on the farm and I had a little pony named Trixie, and a buggy, and I drove to the town to go to school.  It was four miles.  And I remember one time it was nine below zero, and I drove the little pony and the cart to town to go to school, and I was so cold I cried.  My hands hurt and my mother said “We’re going to move to town so you can go to school.”

So my mother took my brother and me, and she rented an empty bank building; what a courageous woman she was!  She rented an empty bank building, and there she made a home; and I went to school there where I could walk.  And I remember that when we came into the town and my mother had built our home in that empty bank building, that a preacher came—he was the pastor of the church—a preacher came, and he read the Bible to my mother and to me.  I was barely six years old.  And he read the Bible and he got down on his knees.  Isn’t it strange that I should so remember that and a thousand other things I forget?  But I can see that pastor now, by the side of my mother and me, kneeling down praying for us. Those are the things that build the Christian faith.  Ten thousand other things don’t matter; that does.  He knelt down, prayed.

May I have time for one other?  This is the prayer and the song we shall sing in glory; in the fifth of the Revelation.  You’ve heard me say one of the most dramatic scenes in all the earth is Revelation chapter 5; and the Lord God took the book, and the four cherubim and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb [Revelation 5:7-8]:

And they sang that new song, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals:  for Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood…

And made us kings and priests—

we shall reign upon the earth—

And I heard the voice of the angels—

ten thousands times ten thousands—

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain . . .

And every creature in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. . . heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, glory, and power be unto Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

And the four cherubim—

says it again—

and the four cherubim said, Amen.

And the four and twenty elders—

that represents us—

fell down and worshiped Him that liveth forever and ever.

[Revelation 5:9-14]

That’s what we’re going to do in heaven.  We’re going to kneel down.  We’re going to bow down and praise God and worship the Lord forever and ever.  That heavenly scene is reflected in the marvelous hymn of praise that we sing.

All hail the power of Jesus’ name

Let angels prostrate fall.

Bring forth the royal diadem

And crown Him Lord of all.

O that with yonder sacred throng

We at His feet may fall.

We’ll join the everlasting song

And crown Him Lord of all.

[“All Hail the Power of Jesus Name,” Edward Perronet]


It just seems right to me to get down on my knees when I talk to God.  It seems to me that’s where I belong.  That’s where I ought to be.  When I take upon myself to speak unto the great King, I who am but dust and ashes, that’s where I belong.  I belong down on my knees.  Somehow the vision beatific is more clearly seen when I look up, being down on my knees.  So I thought we might close our service on our knees.  As I kneel let’s all kneel for just this moment.

Our dear Lord in heaven, our great and mighty Sovereign, how is it that God would bow down His ears to hear creatures such as we; so small, so limited, so sinful, so selfish, so filled with all those things that are not pleasing in Thy sight?  O God, Thou must be a loving and merciful God thus to look upon creatures such as we, made out of dust and ashes, soon to return to the ground from whence we came.  O Lord, how could we ever thank Thee enough for the love that reaches down from heaven to touch our souls and our lives?  And how could we ever thank Thee enough for the Lord Jesus who came to wash us clean and white [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5] and to save us from our sins? [1 Corinthians 15:3] We love Thee, Lord; we pray that God shall have all of us.  Take us, Lord; everything we have and possess, every thought and dream of our souls, every vision and prayer for any tomorrow, sanctify and hallow it, Lord, that it might be pleasing to Thee.  Bless our dear church; bless the new year into which we’ve entered.  Help us to preach the gospel in power; may the Lord honor it in the miraculous saving of souls.  And bless all who share in this labor of love; to witness, to pray, to sing, to teach, to visit, to witness, to testify, to bring others to Thee.  And, Lord, as we come and bring ourselves to Thee, may the Lord bless us, and help us, and be good to us, and strengthen us for the way.  And now, Lord, as we sing our appeal, give us souls.  And we shall love Thee for the answered prayer, in Thy dear name, amen.

As we sing our song now, on the first note of the first stanza, if the Lord has spoken to your heart, would you answer with your life?  Make the decision now in the quietness of this moment, and then down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I’ve made a decision for Jesus, and here I am” [Ephesians 2:8-9]; “I’m going to put my life in the church,” or “I’m going to be baptized.”  Or, “I’m going to accept the Lord as My Savior.  I’m going to bring my family and we are all coming.”   Or just one, that’s you, when we stand and sing, on that first note, answer with your life, and God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.


Acts 26:20


<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>(a)
<![endif]>”The one who kneels is General George Washington.”

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>1.
<![endif]>      I Kings 18:41,
42, 43-45

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

Confirmation of the delivered word.

God working with us, sometimes by
signs and wonders.

Saving souls, adding to the church,
opening doors, blessing people.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

2.         II Chron.
6:13 (I K. 8:54) 6:18-21   (7:14)

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

Let us ask
God to bless these facilities, so vast.
Use them . . . .

<![if !vml]><![endif]>

My 35th anniversary =
debts paid

parking bldg. – Ross Ave.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>3.
<![endif]>      Psalm
95:1-7a  b

Let us worship
God together [cf. “us,” “our,” “we” pl.]

Heb. 10:25       – There is private reading of the Bible
– public

                                  There is private praying  –

                                  There are private devotions, worship –

                                  We need each other, as we all need the Lord.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

the golden sun is setting

the day fades fast away.

forget to count your blessings

forget to kneel and pray.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>4.
<![endif]>     Daniel 6:10


Love our God, our faith, our
church, our country, city

(a)  Dr. Truett, “I am a citizen of no mean

(b)  “toward Jerusalem”

Unashamed to be seen . . . .

<![if !vml]>

<![endif]><![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>


<![if !supportLists]>(a)
<![endif]>My first sermon, after called as pastor

“Make it a matter of prayer.”  Kneeled down by side of  pulpit

into tears – the throngs

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>5.
<![endif]>     Luke 22:41

     Let us seek strength from heaven.

      Hours of crisis.  God
sends His angels to strengthen.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>(a)
<![endif]><![if !vml]><![endif]>Moved.  Dr. Fred Swank. I P. 5:6, 7

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>6.
<![endif]>      Acts 7:59, 60

Forgiving, even our bitterest

Bitterness in the heart is a

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>7.
<![endif]>      Acts 20:36-38


Loving one another.  Praying for each other.

cf.  People won to the Lord.
By doctrine?  Maybe one.

love  – –

cf.  The welcome to a bar; to a church, class, department

<![if !vml]>

<![endif]><![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>


cf.  Little boy to policeman, why Moody’s S.S. –

seem to love a fellow over there!”

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>8.
<![endif]>      Eph. 3:14ff

      That  God will
strengthen us . . . . 3:16b, 17a, 19

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>(a)
<![endif]>Mother, moving to town to an empty bank bldg.

      Often 9 degrees below zero.
Trip in horse-buggy.  6 years

      The pastor. Reading Bible.
Kneeling with my mother, praying . . .

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportLists]>9.
<![endif]>      Rev. 5:8, 9, 13­-14

Praising the Lamb of God forever.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

hail the power of Jesus’ name!

               Let angels prostrate fall;

forth the royal diadem,

               And crown Him Lord of all.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

that with yonder sacred throng

               We at His feet may fall!

join the everlasting song,

               And crown Him Lord of all.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

Phil. 2:9-11   Someday – why not now?