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When one reads about people praying to G-d throughout Tanac"h, we rarely discover them standing to pray. Most of the time they are kneeling, prostrating or falling on their faces. We see that when Moshe prayed, he fell on his face (See Bemidbar 14:5, Bemidbar 16:4 for two of many examples.)

In Daniel 6:11, we see that he faced Jerusalem and prayed 3 times daily in a kneeling position. The 3 times daily prayer facing Jerusalem looks like the closest "imitation" to our current Amidah (in terms of facing Jerusalem.)

There are some exceptions. Regarding Avraham it says, "He was still standing before G-d.' (Breishit 18:22)

The Gemarah pretty consistently says that prayer (generally, in the Gemarah, the term tefilla usually means the Amidah aka "Shemoneh Eseh") should be done standing. See Mishnah Bavli Brachot 3:5 and Brachot 5:1 which both use the term "standing".

At what point and why did the posture change to standing?

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    Maybe it started with Avraham... Do you mean to ask why Chazal went with Avraham's method and not Daniyel's? – Double AA May 16 '18 at 15:35
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    Maybe it says "So-and-so prostrated himself and said…" precisely because that wasn't the usual posture for prayer. – msh210 May 16 '18 at 15:36
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    Aren’t there different types of tefillah? We also “fall on our faces,” but tachanun is a different kind of tefillah from s”e. – DonielF May 16 '18 at 16:38
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    I think it has everything to do with what is proper conduct in front of a king. – ezra May 16 '18 at 16:52
  • @DonielF Indeed, there are different forms. I agree that there is a bit of vagueness in my question but not intentionally. When the Gemarrah mentions tefilla it generally means Shemoneh Esreh. Of course, within Tanac"h, there is no concept of "Shemoneh Esreh". So, one can conjecture what various people were praying. Nonetheless, I think that the quote from Daniel seems the closest to the idea of Shemoneh Esreh that we currently have. And, there, we see that he knelt. If you have any suggestions on how I can improve the question so that it's better focused, I appreciate it. – DanF May 16 '18 at 18:38
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Ma'aseh Rokeach to Hilchot Tefillah 5:2 writes that a source for the requirement to stand during prayer is the concept of:

אין שירות אלא מעומד

The [priestly Temple] service was only performed while standing

(mentioned in Sotah 38a).

My understanding of his comment is that our prayers today are modelled (to an extent) on the Temple service. We therefore stand to pray, as the priests stood to serve in the Temple.

  • Thanks for noticing and answering this question! I'll check out the content in the link, later. Offhand, though, what you mentioned seems to contradict Daniel's posture. – DanF Nov 1 '18 at 14:20
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    Fair point. Although, of course, Daniel was post-first temple. Maybe the rabbinic enactment to stand only came about after the second temple was destroyed. – Joel K Nov 1 '18 at 14:28

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