Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Public Prayer

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” 1 Timothy 2:8

"While it is the privilege of all of God’s children to pray to Him, and we have the example of the prayers of both men and women recorded in Scripture, yet, because Paul is here speaking of public prayer in the assembly, it is addressed particularly to men everywhere and the spirit with which they are to pray.

"'Men every where', shows that it is not limited to men of certain title. There are some organizations that limit public prayer to pastors, elders, or deacons, who may be officially recognized and ordained to those offices. Because of a certain authority imposed upon them by some institution or organization, they are set above the people in a 'clergy' and laity distinction. However, we do not find any such distinctions in Scripture with regard to authority being conferred based on title, education, or position as conferred by men.

"Having made that statement, there are two qualifications imposed by God the Spirit on any man who would lead the congregation in worship.
1. 'Lifting up holy hands'- These are men who evidence their justification (declared righteousness) before God through faith in His Son and His finished work at Calvary. The thief on the cross addressed such a prayer to God in crying, 'Remember me when thou comest in Thy kingdom,' Luke 23:42. He had nothing in himself as holiness to recommend him to God, but Christ’s acknowledgment of him as accepted by His imputed righteousness was all sufficient for Him. The publican addressed such a prayer, lifting holy hands in crying, 'Be merciful to me a sinner,' Luke 18:13. He looked to the mercy seat, a type of Christ’s propitiation as his only righteousness before God, 1 John 2:2.
2. 'Without wrath and doubting'- Prayer is to be offered to God in an attitude of quietness, peace, and faith by those who know themselves redeemed and justified by the blood of Christ and called out by His Spirit. They know to whom their prayers are addressed, (the ALL Sovereign God), and believe that He hears and answers according to His will. Trouble, turmoil, and conflict in a congregation may at times cause someone to lash out in prayer, scold, or even doubt God’s presence. Nonetheless, may we ever pray to God in the same spirit as the church gathered in the first century, trusting God’s sovereign will and purpose as found in Acts 4:23-31, without an angry and unforgiving temper towards men." -- Ken Wimer, Shreveport Grace Church Bulletin - November 26, 2006


Anonymous said...

I'm just curious -- is it the custom in your churches to lift your hands, literally, in prayer? Would it be viewed as odd? Biblical?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Good question, Will. I guess I've never given it much thought. It is not a custom in this area among Baptist churches, so far as I know.

I can't imagine anyone arguing that it isn't Biblical, but I can imagine folks shying away from it as too close to "Pentecostalism".

Here in East Texas the custom seems to tend toward standing to pray, while my personal custom is to kneel (if there's room). Lifting hands seems a little awkward combined with kneeling, and would seem (to me) more compatible with standing.

Is lifting of hands the custom for anyone out there?

Anonymous said...

It was never a custom to raise hands in any Baptist Church I served in Canada. I have seen the odd person raise one hand...yes, I sometimes pray with open eyes....I often raised both hands when I started a pastoral prayer,,,I thik it was a signal to the congregation more than anything. In one church, it was quite common to hear the "amens" during prayer. We seldom kneeled..sometimes remained seated, but generally stood.

At mid-week prayer meeting, we always kneeled in small groups. Men and women met in separate rooms. When man and women prayed together, we generally remained seated.
I welcomed women praying in public and in mixed meetings. I think it is God-honouring and gets out of the chauvenistic or paternalistic eras of old.



Anonymous said...

Well, you know, it's just that it seems injunctive: something that Paul(*) thinks should happen "every where;" as normative as adornment "in modest apparel."

Is this indicative of:

(1) a failure of churches to obey a clear biblical command,

(2) something which was culturally appropriate to the primitive church, but doesn't apply specifically to the current church (**),

(3) something else altogether?

If (1), why don't the churches do this (other than that it looks pentecostal)? If (2), how do you pick and choose what is time-bound, and what isn't? If (3), what does it indicate?

* Assuming Paul is the author of the pastorals.

** I take it as given that the other parts of the injunction--to pray, to be 'holy', and pray without 'anger or doubting' remain normative.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I agree that it sounds like an injunction, and I have no doubt that Paul did expect folks to literally hold up their hands while in prayer. My feeling that kneeling and lifting up the hands is somewhat awkward notwithstanding, this would have been familiar at least to Jewish believers. (My feeling very likely relates to custom.)

1 Kings 8:38 - What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:
1 Kings 8:54 - And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
2 Chron. 6:29 - Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house:
Psalm 141:2 - Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

More directly to your questions:

(1) Assuming this were a clear biblical command, then churches/Christians would be in violation to refuse to do so. That it looks "pentecostal" would be no excuse. I will below address why I wouldn't think it a "universal" injunction.

(2) There is no reason to suppose that it was culturally appropriate only to the primitive church, but that it would not be appropriate or apply to the church in our modern day. To apply such reasoning consistently to the New Testament would probably strip us of much of its message. [IMO, this kind of reasoning is selectively applied by most of us, whether we realize it or not.]

(3) What does it indicate? My idea is that Paul did expect people to (literally) pray every where, (literally) lifting up (figuratively & spiritually) holy hands.

Some of the reasons that I would not think this a "universal" injunction (that every single time we pray we physically hold up our hands) will follow. But I do believe it is "universal" in the sense of applying just as much today as it did in Paul's day.

A. The Scriptures seem to approve of other physical postures/actions when praying. Some of these seem to not include, or possibly even exclude, lifting up of hands. For example in Luke ch. 18, Jesus approves of the publican's prayer in which he, rather than lifting up his hands, smote himself upon the breast. There is at least one instance of prayer when hands were laid on the person(s) for whom prayer was being made (Mt 19:13-15). These two seem to require other use of the hands and to me would indicate that we can pray other than with hands lifted. Other Biblical postures I think referred to are: kneeling, lying prostrate, eyes looking up to heaven, in the belly of a whale, maybe others (this is from memory and may be partially incorrect).

B. Jesus' model prayer (Matt. ch. 6) seems to put the premium on "after this manner pray ye" (the words) rather than the posture. And when even when the words are insufficient/deficient (forgive the song that falls so low), the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us in groanings that cannot be uttered.

Finally, I would say these two are not arguments against lifting up hands in prayer; just that they indicate to me that lifting up hands is not "universal" -- to be done with each and every prayer we pray. Even so, it sounds like we may well be "coming up short" Biblically to never pray with uplifted hands. Perhaps it should be the "usual" way.