I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.1 Timothy 2:8
When Paul says he
want[s] men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, he does not mean that only men should pray. In some churches this verse has been understood that way so that only men are permitted to pray in public or to lead the congregation in prayer. But that is not what the apostle means. He is not saying that only men should pray, but that when men pray in every place they should do so in a twofold way—lifting up holy hands and without anger or quarreling in their hearts. Paul's concern is not who prays here, but how they pray.
The first instruction is that men should
lift up holy hands. That was the usual posture of prayer, derived largely from the Jewish synagogues, where the Jews prayed while standing with their arms lifted up and led the congregation that way. All Paul is saying is that when men pray that way, there ought to be two things that are characteristic of them.
First, the hands lifted up should be holy. That does not mean that something religious has to be done to them—that they should be sprinkled with holy water or something like that. Rather, this is a figure of speech that means that these men's actions, symbolized by the hands, should be right actions. These are men who ought to have a record of rightful behavior, who are recognized as honest, whose actions reflect their faith.
Second, their attitudes toward one another must be
without anger or disputing. Their relationships have to be right. They must not be bitter or resentful against somebody, angry about something that has never been brought into the open or discussed.
When I was growing up as a boy in Montana, we used to have services for a particular denomination only once a month because there was no church of that type in town. Each month when the service was held, you could count on the fact that a lean, tall man would always lead in prayer. His prayer was anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes in length, and almost everyone had fallen asleep by the time he finished. But what made it worse was that he was widely known in the community as the biggest rascal in town. His questionable business practices had turned everybody off, so that his prayer was hypocrisy, and he was despised in that community. What the apostle is saying here in this verse is that when men pray in public, they must live in private what they pray.
Lord, teach me to pray, not just with the right posture but also with the right heart. Forgive me for those times I have gone through the motions of prayer yet harbored bitterness and resentment in my heart.
Talking to our awesome God is not a casual encounter. Does our public prayer reflect personal integrity as we see ourselves in the presence of God's holiness?