Is there something to men lifting their hands to God in prayer or worship?

In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Timothy 2:8). This simple phrase, “lifting holy hands,” has a rich meaning and significance.

A Jewish and Roman gesture of surrender

In the Jewish tradition, lifting one’s hands in prayer was a way of expressing surrender to God and dependence on Him. This gesture is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, such as in the following passages:

“Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord” (Psalm 28:2).
“I lift up my hands to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 141:1).
“When you spread out your hands, I will look on you” (Isaiah 1:15).

Lifting one’s hands in prayer was also a common Roman gesture of surrender to a superior. When a Roman citizen was captured in battle, he would raise his hands in the air to signal to his conqueror that he was surrendering.

A priestly act of blessing

Paul’s use of the phrase “lifting up holy hands” is also a reference to the priestly act of blessing. In the Old Testament, only the priests could raise their hands in blessing. But in the new covenant, all believers are priests (Rev. 1:6). So when Paul calls for men to lift up holy hands in prayer, he is reminding them of their priestly role in the church.

A call to worship and service

When men lift holy hands in prayer, they are leading the people in worship and intercession. They are also modeling for the people what it means to surrender to God and depend on Him. When men lead in prayer, they are setting an example for others to follow.

Paul’s instruction to the men of Timothy’s church is a call to worship and service. He is calling them to be spiritual leaders in their community, to lead the people in prayer and to model for them what it means to live a life of surrender to God.

How can we apply this teaching to our own lives today?

Here are some ideas:

– Be intentional about your prayer life. Set aside time each day to pray. Go ahead and lift your hands to God in prayer. This is a way of expressing your surrender and dependence to Him.
– Lead in prayer when you have the opportunity. Whether you are at church, at work, or with your family and friends, don’t be afraid to lead in prayer. This is a great way to set an example for others and to lead them in worshiping God.
– Pray for your spiritual leaders. Pray that they would be able to lead the church effectively and that they would be a good example for others. Lifting holy hands in prayer is a powerful way to worship God, to make a difference in the world, and to be a leader in your family, church, and community.

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Jeff Hagen
President & Founder
Hill Cities, Inc.

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