But I, by your great mercy,
will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down
toward your holy temple.
Sometimes when we open ourselves to God in prayer, we remember that we are in the presence of One who is mystery. We acknowledge with awe and wonder that all that God is—all of God’s love and goodness and beauty and power—is far beyond our capacity to know or comprehend. As we remember and acknowledge these realities, we bow.
Our bowing in prayer is a physical, as well as a spiritual, act. We may bow our head. We may kneel. We may lie prostrate. However we bow, our bodies express our prayer of reverent awe.
When we bow in prayer, our thoughts are not focused on ourselves or on others. Rather, our hearts and minds are filled with awareness of our Maker. And this awareness changes us.
Sometimes when we sit beside the ocean, or under the stars, or looking out across an open expanse of land, the experience of gazing at something that is vast, beautiful and ancient has a way of bringing things in our lives back into perspective. Problems that seem big begin to seem smaller. Our own disproportionate sense of ourselves comes back into balance. Our view of the world and of life shifts. Humility, peace, surrender, hope and even joy often emerge as a result.
The experience we have when sitting gazing at the beauty of creation is a small glimpse of what can take place as we bow in reverence before our Maker. It is indeed, as the psalmist says, by God’s great mercy that we are able to embrace and be embraced by such an experience. When we bow before God, we are drawn out of ourselves, we are moved beyond our thoughts and concerns, we are enlarged.
As we bow in reverence before our Maker, our minds and hearts are captured for a time by this single focus. Albert Edward Day wrote about one such experience he had of bowing in reverence before God:
In the epiphany of that night of darkness and pain and near despair, the holiness of God became an ecstasy, a captivity of adoration, a heart-smiting and heart-possessing reality. I was caught up and then bowed in enthralled worship.…What I had become aware of thrillingly and exclusively, was a holiness that is wholeness…it was goodness of infinite dimensions, truth transcending all limitations; beauty endlessly satisfying; mercy without limit; forgiveness equal to every desperate sin; restoration transcending every prodigality; wisdom surpassing all human knowledge; everything of value in time and eternity; and always there, without variation, for everybody, in every situation. (Albert Edward Day , The Captivating Presence, quoted in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, The Upper Room, Nashville, Tennessee, 1983, page 244, )
I bow before you.
I bow in reverence
I am without words.
Your goodness and love
your beauty and mercy
your power and kindness
leave me breathless.
I bow in silence
Read Psalm 8 slowly, prayerfully. Bow in silent reverence before God. Invite God’s Spirit to reveal more of God to you as you continue to bow for as long as you choose.