Praying in a Prostrate Position? - Matthew 26:39

Originally appeared on www.thirdmill.org

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."
In Islam, one prays bending their face to 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 face to the ground and he prayed. However, is this the only way God's people pray?
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 once in 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.
Second, in Islam there are specific times to pray: [(1) Fajr (pre-dawn); (2) Dhuhr (noon); (3) 'Asr (afternoon); Maghrib (sunset) and (5) 'Isha (evening)]. However, as the death and resurrection facts continue, Jesus prayed around midnight and beyond (it was already night when he began - John 13:30). Jesus prayed multiple times and for a series of hours:
Matthew 26:40-47 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. " Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour? " he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
As can be seen, Jesus prayed until just before his betrayal (vss.46- 47) - not in keeping with Islamic timeline of prayer of Gethsemane.

Third, an approximate timeline of the Crucifixion of Jesus reveals he did not keep the other hours of Islamic prayer as well: (1) Jesus stood trail in the early morning before Pilot (Matt. 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-37); (2) he was crucified at app. 9 AM (Mark 15:25 - the third hour); at app.12 noon darkness covered the land until 3 PM (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33 - the sixth hour) and at app. 3 PM Jesus cried out to his Father (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34 - the ninth hour). Jesus clearly demonstrated he did not pray like a Muslim is commanded too!

Fourth, Jesus addressed, "his Father" in our text (Matt. 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'." (Islam 101 - Concept of God in Islam, by Dr. Zakir Naik).

Jesus was NOT praying an Islamic prayer or giving an example of the only position of 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.
Reference: Islam 101 website.
Please see:

Christianity and Islam Contrasted


Answer by Joseph R. Nally
Theological Editor of Third Millennium Ministries, (IIIM)

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