Prayer, Kneeling Posture
Kneeling for prayer in public services seems to have been a custom of the Basel Anabaptists of the Reformation period. Paul Burckhart says, "As soon as they entered the house where their services were held, they fell upon their knees, and after inexpressible, soundless sighs they arose, wiped the perspiration from their faces, and urged each other to expound the Holy Scriptures." Ernst Müller says of the Bernese Anabaptists, "At their services they sang from the Ausbund, the chorister (Vorsänger) reading two stanzas aloud before they were sung. For prayer they knelt together, continuing the custom until the beginning of the century." Ludwig Keller says, "The congregation always knelt for prayer. This was also the custom in the previous century in many Mennonite churches." He cites Anna Brons, but her description concerns the Swiss Mennonites in Holland. In West Prussia the kneeling posture was observed until the dissolution in 1945. From Switzerland and South Germany the custom of kneeling in prayer was brought to Pennsylvania and became the universal practice among Mennonites and Amish of all groups of this background in America. Only in the 1940s and 1950s did the custom change in the Mennonite Church (MC) in some sections. The Mennonites in Russia all practiced the kneeling posture, as did their descendants of all groups who came to America. However, only the most conservative groups of this background (Old Colony, for example) have maintained the practice; the others have discontinued it for some considerable time.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 212. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Neff, Christian and Harold S. Bender. "Prayer, Kneeling Posture." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/P737ME.html.
APA style: Neff, Christian and Harold S. Bender. (1956). Prayer, Kneeling Posture. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/P737ME.html.