Monday, September 6, 2010

Lift Up Holy Hands

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

Semites, when praying, stretch out their arms and lift up their hands as though they were about to receive something. This is a gesture of supplication.

When men plead before a high official of church or state, they lift up their hands, making gestures of sincere appeal.

When they stand at attention, their hands are folded in front of them.

When people beg for mercy they also stretch out or lift up their hands. “Lift up holy hands” means to plead with a sincere heart and motive.

(Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., Philadelphia: 1945, pgs 406-407)


  1. Do you think it could also mean just lifting up your hands towards holiness? Plain, simple, not complex, not totally metaphorical. Like when a very small child lifts up it's hands because he/she wants to be picked up, or get attention from loved ones. They instinctively innocently, and without doubt or wrath lift up their hands. Little children are said to be "alive in Christ". I quite like the image of a child lifting up it's hands to be embraced by a loving parent. That's the image this scripture communicates to me.

    Does that fit? Or were you going a different direction?

    Don't get me wrong, I liked the post a lot!

  2. I didn't have a particular direction in mind. It reminded me of possible levels of meaning regarding praying with upraised hands. There was an aspect of having "clean hands and a pure heart" which David in Psalms says is essential for true Temple worship as well.

    I think your idea of lifting up hands to a loving Heavenly Father (who has Holiness as one of His names) is wonderful.

    I love that scriptures are not just written in a flat "this means that" fashion, but that they continually unfold in increasing levels of joyful insights. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us!

  3. So true, loved the reminder of the many levels of meaning in the scriptures. Your right, they are not flat "this means that".

    I like the clean hands and pure hart aspect you just mentioned as well.

    Thank you again for your efforts here.

  4. Another view is from the Hebrew. The word for prayer is spelled peh - lamed - lamed. The lamed is the only letter that reaches above the line that written Hebrew letters are drawn along. Rabbis say the two lameds are two hands upraised to God. And peh is the word for mouth, specifically an open mouth. So the word for prayer is also a picture of someone praying.

  5. Rebecca, Thanks so very much for taking time to post this information--I love it.