Why don't we bow our heads when we pray?


I’m in RCIA and I noticed that most of the people at my church do not bow their heads when they pray, both in Mass and RCIA. Even the director said “Let us pray” and then stood their with her eyes wide open and arms moving, as if she were talking to us.

Is my church different, or do Catholics not bow their heads and close their eyes as often as I did when I was a Protestant?



If Catholics closed their eyes and bowed their heads every time they prayed, many would almost never open their eyes or stand up straight. Seriously, some postures are better for prayer, IMHO, but it’s not like closing eyes/bowing head is necessary to prayer.

I think that’s more of an external protestant thing. I’m sure lots of Catholics do it too, but probably for the simple fact that they really want to concentrate on the prayer, and not be distracted by seeing what’s going on around them.


We pray with our hearts and minds…nothing else. If bowing your head allows you to focus more on the prayer, go for it. I, for one, typically bow my head during the Gospel reading so that I might visualize Our Lord’s words.


There are people who bow their heads. I’ve seen it done with some of my parish Life Teen kids. Others as well. I do it as well. If it’s something you wish to do to with your personal piety. If you wish to make your faith more meaningful, make it your own. Then by all means “Go for it”. :signofcross:

Why does it seem like there is an attitude that everything has to come from Rome? Can’t we as Catholics make intelligent, common sense, mature decisions when it comes to our own personal prayer life and piety? Sorry, just wondering a bit.



I often bow my head and close my eyes for formal prayer, at Mass and otherwise. People around me at Mass do likewise, unless their minds are wandering and they’re not paying attention. My casual prayer is usually eyes-open-walking-around, though.


This is pretty much true for me. I always bow my head and close my eyes during the Mass prayers and so there are parts of the Mass I rarely, if ever, see what’s going on. I know what’s going on, I just don’t see it. So I couldn’t tell you if the pastor is waving his arms wildly while we’re reciting prayers or anything else. There have been times, tho, when I’ve suffered dizzy spells while praying and just kept my head up and eyes open.



I bow my head and sometimes close my eyes during certain parts of the Mass. Unfortunately, I am easily distracted so I find if I do those two things I can keep myself centered better. I know a lot of my friends do the same.


I bow my head and close my eyes when I’m at my pew at Mass or saying the Rosary. I do not bow/close when I’m praying while driving, riding my bicycle, etc.

Which brings up a funny I heard once–a Protestant preacher at the end of his sermon was about to give the altar call, which is a time that the entire congregation is supposed to be bowed and closed. What he said was, “Everybody bow your eyes and close your heads.”




Bowing one’s head and closing one’s eyes for prayer is a personal preference. There are some rituals in the Catholic Church that do call for bowing one’s head.

In ordinations and religious profession of vows the candidate is to bow his head to the bishop or to the Major Superior while hands are imposed. During the liturgy of the Christmas season we bow during the part of the Creed that proclaims that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.

In some communities, when the Glory be . . . is said at the end of the psalms during the Liturgy of the Hours we bow.

Bowing among Catholics is usually part of ritual. It has a special meaning in each ritual. However, in informal prayer or private prayer settings, it is up to the individual. Some people need it to concentrate. I know that I do. I’m a very visual person. I tend to take in everything I see. I need to close my eyes.

JR :slight_smile:


I bow my head whenever I say the Holy Names of Jesus or Mary. It is also appropriate to bow your head when saying the name of any saint on his or her Feast Day.

And all of us bow our heads, at Mass… during the Confiteor (I confess to Almighty God… etc.); or whenever the priest or deacon asks us to… such as, at the end of Mass… “bow your heads and pray”… etc.

I wish I knew the answer, as to why your RCIA teacher isn’t bowing. But you can certainly do so… at any time, during prayer.

Hope this helps in some way. Happy New Year! :winter:


One reason Protestants would bow their heads and close their eyes is that there were no kneelers.

Another is that the pastor or whoever would extemporize (hah!) the prayer, and there was no need to follow from a book.


I often close my eyes and bow my head while praying at Mass.


I had the same thought!!


We are called to bow our heads or bodies at certain points at the Mass, such as during the Creed, at the words, “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the virgin Mary, and became Man”; and at the invitation, “Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.” A pious practice was also to bow the head at the name of Jesus, which is still retained among many Catholics.


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