“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
After a short digression that covered verses three to seven, the Apostle Paul returned to the subject of prayer here in 1 Timothy 2:8. While the act of lifting one’s hands in prayer is a custom that dates back to the Old Testament era. it’s likely that this refers to more than just a specific posture.
For instance, let’s consider the various circumstances in which people might lift their hands. Perhaps the most common reason is acknowledgement. You see, people often lift their hands to make a request or affirm their recognition. In like manner, we can view this passage as an encouragement to lift up holy hands in acknowledgment and recognition of who God is and what He has done.
People are also known to lift their hands in a gesture of peace. This is true for groups as divergent as counter-culture non-conformists all the way to those who interact with military organizations and law enforcement personnel. From a communication standpoint, a person who lifts his or her hands is someone who signals a desire to surrender or bring an end to hostilities. In this respect, this passage encourages us to acknowledge our surrender to God through faith in Christ and cease hostilities against Him.
Finally, we can say that people also raise their hands as a gesture of friendship. An upraised or outstretched hand that clasps or makes contact with another is a universal expression of goodwill, acceptance, and camaraderie. Therefore, raising one’s hands in prayer can signify the friendship and acceptance with God that we experience in Christ.
As Jesus reminded His disciples in the Gospel of John…
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15).
So a person who lifts “holy hands” is someone who acknowledges his or her Creator in a manner that reflects His holy character. This may also explain the short addendum to this directive: “…without wrath and doubting.” When those characteristics are present, it is often difficult to find fellowship with God and others.
Image Credit: lam_chihang, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Novak_Djokovic_Giving_a_High_Five.jpg