Why Every Head Bowed, Every Eye Closed?

Why, when and on what biblical basis did preachers begin altar calls with ‘every head bowed, every eye closed’?

Whenever I have heard an altar call being with ‘every head bowed, every eye closed’ I always wonder why? I wonder what purpose it serves to ask everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. Is the preacher trying not to embarrass someone who may respond to the gospel? Would not the person who just believed the gospel be over joyed with their new life in Christ that they would have no shame so that bowed heads and closed eyes would not matter? Is the Holy Spirit somehow strengthened by bowed heads and closed eyes?

I also wonder when this type of altar call began. I have not found it in the Bible. Nor are their any records of the early church using or writing about such a method. Maybe knowing when and how it began will help shed light on why it started.

The why and when do not really matter as much as the biblical basis for starting an altar call with ‘every head bowed, every eye closed’. I am curious to know if anyone has read a biblical basis for using this method. I also wonder if those who use this method have ever thought through the biblical reasoning and foundation for why they use it.

It just seems a bit odd that someone is – with the church gathered for corporate worship, singing praise songs to Jesus, hearing a sermon from the Bible, called to believe the gospel or go to hell – only to be told that if they believe the gospel they should do so with a bowed head and closed eyes.

Anyway, I am not calling anyone a heretic. I’m just wondering…and thinking.

tagged as in Baptist,Christianity,Church Issues,Evangelism,Gospel,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Micah Burke September 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm

It’s found in a variant in Acts 2 – “And Peter saith unto the crowd, “Lest ye be embarrassed by thy brethren witnessing thy conversion, closeth thine eyes and boweth thine heads…. following the sermon Peter spoke unto them saying, “Verily, thy have madeth a commitment unto Christ, raise up thyself and walketh this aisle that you may seen by thy brethren as we singeth ‘Just as I am.”

2 Burdell September 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

This might be a good start:


There’s no indication whether this was original to Hyles or not.

3 David (NAS) Rogers September 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I don’t know when the head bowed-eyes closed ritual began, but it could be associated with the “altar calls” which originated in the Second Great Awakening in America in the nineteenth century.


4 David (NAS) Rogers September 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm

And now I see you are already aware of that. Sorry.

5 Mark September 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Burdell and David, thanks for the info. I have read Naselli in the past. He presents some good information.

I wonder if anyone who uses this method has ever biblically questioned themselves.

6 Mark September 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Micah, you cracked me up. Thanks.

7 MarieP September 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm

LOL! Likewise, Acts 8, “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou boweth thy head and believeth with all thine free will, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life . And he commanded the people to stand and sing “Just as I am”: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, Philip was caught away to the preach the late morning service, and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way because he had his own personal relationship with Jesus.

8 Ransom September 24, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Yea, brother, I seest thine hand.


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