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In my experience, every church I've either been in or seen recorded ask the congregation to stand when they sing. Without having done a scientific study, it seems this is a near-universal practice among Christians (and please correct me if this is wrong).

Is there a biblical basis for this, or is it merely a wide-reaching convention? If so, is there anything to suggest when or how this practice may have begun?

I recognise this question may be at the border of what's on-topic. I've tried to keep in on-topic by not asking why we sing, but for the biblical basis and history of this specific Christian practice. Given this practice seems to be the same amongst many denominations, I hope it's ok not to specify a particular group.

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    It's not universal. In Germany it is considered normal to sit when we sing, and stand when we pray. – DJClayworth Jul 8 at 13:11
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    @DJClayworth I think this is a practice of the protestant churches. In the (German) Catholic Church there are some songs (litugical elements) where we stand and some where we sit. – K-HB Jul 8 at 17:15
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    Isn't this a matter of biology? Your posture is better while standing, making it easier for your diaphragm, lungs and other organs to move in the right direction. – Mast Jul 9 at 6:16
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    Because the worship leader is trying to get the blood flowing before the sermon ;) – Machavity Jul 9 at 12:35
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    When I attended Baptist church services as a child we only stood for maybe one hymn in 4. (In particular, we stood for the "invitation" hymn.) But in the Lutheran services I attend now we pretty much stand for every hymn. – Hot Licks Jul 10 at 2:25
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Why do Christians stand when we sing?

Because the day of the Lord is consecrated to the Resurrection, it is a kind of image of our hope in the Resurrection, the attitude of standing had for the early Christians an eschatological meaning: it was considered the proper attitude for those awaiting with confidence the Parousia. So we sing while we stand!

Singing the Psalms while standing was a monastic tradition started by St. Benedict in the 6th century.

Standing. In modern times kneeling has become generally accepted as the most appropriate attitude for prayer. In antiquity, however, and for many centuries in the Church, standing was considered to be the most normal posture, and it is still so considered by the liturgy, except for times and ceremonies that call for a special expression of penance and humble adoration. Even today many of the older basilicas do not have pews or kneelers. Standing was considered by the Jews as the most fitting attitude in praying to the Lord (Ex 33.8, 10; Sir 50.12–13; 1 Sm 1.26; Ps 135.2; Mt 6.5; Mk 11.25; Lk 18.11) and in listening to Him speak (Ex 19.17; Neh 8.5). That the early Christians adopted this custom as the normal attitude for prayer is evident not only from the many images of the "orante" in the catacombs and on ancient sarcophagi, but also from the testimony of early ecclesiastical writers: Justin (Apologia 1.67; J. Quasten, ed., Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima 19), Tertullian (De corona militis 3; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 2:99), and Cyprian (De dominica oratione 31; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 3.1:289). St. Benedict made standing the official posture for chanting the psalms.

For the early Christians, as for the pagans and the Jews, standing was a natural expression of respect and reverence. But for the Christians, as is evident in the writings of the Fathers, it had the added significance of the new dignity, the liberty of the children of God, the freedom from slavery and sin through Baptism and participation in the Resurrection, which makes it possible to stand confidently before God with eyes and arms uplifted to Him. As the Second Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Rite puts it: "We thank you for counting us worthy to stand before you and serve you." For Tertullian (De oratione 23; Patrologia Latina 1:1191) kneeling was a sign of atonement and penance, whereas standing signified joy, and for this reason standing was customary throughout the Easter and Pentecost season; it was contrary to Church discipline to kneel on Sundays (De corona militis 3; Patrologia Latina 2:99). As a matter of fact, the first Council of nicaea explicitly made standing obligatory on Sundays and during the Easter season (c.20; J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio 2:719–20). Something of this prescription still exists in the custom of standing for the Angelus on Saturday evening and throughout Sunday, and also for the regina caeli during paschal time. Because the day consecrated to the Resurrection is a kind of image of the future world, the attitude of standing had for the early Christians an eschatological meaning: it was considered the proper attitude for those awaiting with confidence the Parousia. In a very special way, standing was considered proper for the exercise of the priesthood. - Liturgical Gestures

There seems to be very little biblical support for standing while singing. It nevertheless is a way for us to incorporate our bodily actions to work in union with our whole being when praying or honouring the Lord. It seems to be more an ancient tradition in many denominations rather than based on clear biblical support.

Standing

A posture for various parts of the Eucharistic liturgy and the Divine Office. Since different countries have different customs, the episcopal conferences have given corresponding directives to the people. From time immemorial, however, standing has been customary during the reading of the Gospel and the recitation or singing of the Creed, the Preface, and Sanctus.

Standing in itself is a very very ancient practice while praying. There are several biblical passages about singing in the Scriptures, but the physical position taken while singing is conspicuously missing. Seems God leaves that to us!

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

One commonly known position for praying dating back to antiquity is the Orans. Even in modern times Catholic priests sing the Our Father at Mass while in this standing position.

Orans, a loanword from Medieval Latin ōrāns translated as one who is praying or pleading, also orant or orante, is a posture or bodily attitude of prayer, usually standing, with the elbows close to the sides of the body and with the hands outstretched sideways, palms up. It was common in early Christianity and can frequently be seen in early Christian art. In modern times, the orans position is still preserved within parts of the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran liturgies, Pentecostal and charismatic worship, and the ascetical practices of some religious groups.

The orans posture was practiced by both pagans and Jews before it was adopted by the earliest Christians. Christians saw the position as representing the posture of Christ on the Cross; therefore, it was the favorite of early Christians. Until the ninth century, the posture was sometimes adopted by entire congregations while celebrating the Eucharist. By the twelfth century, however, the joining of hands began to replace the orans posture as the preferred position for prayer. It continued to be used at certain points in the liturgies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In the Catholic Mass, it occurs at the orations, the Canon, and the Lord's Prayer.

In the twentieth century, the orans posture experienced a revival as a result of its widespread use within Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity. Often associated with contemporary worship, the orans posture is once again becoming a common gesture of worship among many Christian groups.

An early Christian painting of Noah in the gesture of orant

An early Christian painting of Noah in the gesture of orant.

Psalm 134 reinforces the orant position of praying while standing.

134 Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.

2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.

3 The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion. - Psalm 134

Psalm 95:2 almost make it feel as if standing while we sing was most appropriate without actually saying it.

2 Let us come before him with a song of praise, joyfully sing out our psalms.

3 For the Lord is the great God, the great king over all gods,

4 Whose hand holds the depths of the earth; who owns the tops of the mountains. - Psalm 92: 5

Even St. Paul encourages us to sing.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. - Ephesians 5:19

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  • There are lots of good answers here, but in the end this one wins out for going into the history of standing in church. I recognise the Orans reflected in the charismatic singing style, and the idea that the council of Nicea made standing compulsory for all Sunday services is really interesting. – Korosia Jul 12 at 17:18
  • "It continued to be used at certain points in the liturgies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches." Traditionally, in Orthodoxy, the point of the Liturgy at which the faithful stand is the entire service. 😁 – Kyralessa Jul 13 at 14:34
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Why do Christians stand to sing ?

I think the reasons are fundamental to the act, so I do not see biblical instructions or precedents to be relevant.

One may ask, how one should eat a meal : should one sit, or recline ? One may ask, how should one read the bible : should one be seated or kneeling ?

These are matters of preference and matters of practicality, I suggest.

So I am answering under your suggestion of 'wide-reaching convention'.

After a comment mentioned common practice in Germany, I have to maybe say that my own experience is solely in the UK and solely within Protestant Trinitarianism.


  1. Often, God is being addressed in what is being sung. So : reverence is one reason. This is expressed both individually and corporately, by an entire congregation, by standing.

  2. For proper singing, the lungs need to be filled to capacity, not to make a loud noise, but in order to sustain a note and to sing the whole line without pause.

Abdominally, standing is a better posture than sitting, if one wants to repeatedly fill the lungs and exercise the abdominal muscles.

  1. Singing is a physical activity, sometimes accompanied by (small) body movements or movement of limbs in an expressive manner, so standing is better than sitting.

I don't mean anything excessive by these movements, I refer only to very slight swaying in time to the music, or the tapping of a foot to keep rhythym and to very small gestures of expression as the heart engages with the words and with the melody.

Singing for spiritual purposes is an engagement of the whole person : spirit, soul and body. It is active. It is focused.

And it is very effective.


Paul encourages singing of psalms and hymns and songs in his epistles and the psalms repeatedly encourage singing and praising throughout that book of one hundred and fifty examples of praise, worship, petitioning, pleading, lamenting, crying out and triumphing.

I don't see there is any commandment or statute regarding standing to sing in the bible but there are examples which are worthy of note. Just as nowhere in the bible am I told to pray three times a day, yet I read that Daniel did so : not that he advertised the fact but when people put him under surveillance, they couldn't help but notice.

For example, there is a hint in Psalm 134 [KJV version]:

(1) Behold, bless ye the Lord, all servants of the Lord. which by night stand in the house of the Lord.

(2) Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord.

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    Thank you for your answer. I think this is a great summary of the 'physical' reasons we stand to sing. I realise there is a slight difference between my title and body. My aim was to explore more what the Bible itself says, or historical practices. For example, were the reasons you've cited written about in the first centuries of the church, and we've all just copied them since? – Korosia Jul 8 at 9:56
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    @Korosia Edited accordingly to cover your point raised. – Nigel J Jul 8 at 9:59
  • I agree it's primarily related to the physical actions involved in singing, I'd be interested to see if this pattern holds true elsewhere. "God is being addressed in what is being sung" - He is also addresed when we pray which is commonly done sitting down in the traditions I am fmailiar with. – Alan Dev Jul 8 at 20:14
  • If this were the primary reason, then folks would stand without being directed to. By the having the pastor or staff direct the congregation to stand, it becomes a religious observance (not a practical one), and one which congregation members are (somewhat) obliged to obey. I certainly would stand less often if given the choice! – jpaugh Jul 8 at 21:24
  • Singing, at least in the Psalter, is a proclamation of God's Glory, of what he has done, is doing, and will do. Perhaps we have it inverted. It is easier and better to sing when standing but maybe that is because we are supposed to be proclaiming the Glory of God when we sing and proclamations (biblically) are made when standing: The purpose is designed into the act. – Mike Borden Jul 8 at 21:59
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It is common for Christians to stand while singing in church because it is common to sing while standing regardless of context.

Standing allows the singer to make better usage of their diaphragm and lungs. Additionally, it may also result in a better timbre.

The University of Kansas has published a web page which briefly discusses posture for singers. It references books on singing technique which would likely provide a more detailed description of the biomechanics or technique involved. Music.SE also has a question on this (though no answer has been accepted yet). Though not a replicable form of evidence, I can verify from personal experience that voice students in university are trained to sing while standing.

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  • Welcome to SE-Christianity. Please see the Tour and Help as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. – Nigel J Jul 9 at 13:20
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I don't know your denomination, but in roman-catholic church there are times when you are standing and other times when you are sitting.

If a hymn is sung during the time when you are sitting (this is typically the case in the time between the lecture of the old testament and the lecture of the apostle's letter), the people are singing the hymn sitting.

If it is sung during the time when you are standing, the people are singing the hymn standing.

This does not apply to choirs and solo singers in the mass:

Such musicians would always sing standing simply because singing is easier when standing and the sound is better;

for the same reason musicians in a non-religious concert would also sing standing.

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As for a Biblical basis, take a look at 2 Chronicles 5:12:

12 all the Levite singers who belonged to Asaph, to Heman, to Jeduthun, and to their sons and their brothers were clothed in fine fabric, holding cymbals, stringed instruments, and harps; they were standing east of the altar, and along with them 120 priests were sounding the trumpets.

When King David arranged for music at the temple, he also arranged for musical singers from within the Levites.

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  • Nicely done giving what OP asked for. – Mike Borden Jul 10 at 11:24
  • Welcome to SE-C. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom left) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. – Nigel J Jul 11 at 1:29
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One reason is it's a sign of respect. Most countries request you stand when the flag is presented, or the national anthem played. King George II supposedly did so during Handel's Messiah

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands (or maybe millions) of people attending a performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah this holiday season, you may find yourself rising to your feet at the opening sounds of the famed “Hallelujah” chorus. That kind of audience behavior is an outlier in the concert hall — imagine the listeners rising to their feet at the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

So, how did this become tradition? Well, here’s the thing — we honestly don’t know. The most accepted reason is that King George II stood up during the chorus at the Messiah’s 1743 London premiere. Unfortunately, Snopes wasn’t around back then to fact-check any of the reasons given for that ascendant, magisterial behavior. Some believe the king was so moved by the music that he stood up to show his reverence. And, since it was considered good etiquette to stand when the king stood, the audience had to follow suit.

The hymn Stand Up, Stand up for Jesus suggests it as a victory march, or way to do spiritual battle

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high his royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed.

Virtually all music ministers have the congregation stand for this one since it's somewhat silly to sit through a song about standing

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