Posture in Prayer: The Spread out or the Lifting of Hands Heavenward

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Coram Deo

Puritan Board Junior
The Spreading out and/or Lifting Heavenward of the Hands


Does it matter what physical position God’s people assume when they engage in public prayer? The Scriptures mentions posture in prayer and indicates that it is not a matter of indifference or of little consequence. William Hendriksen, commenting on 1 Timothy 2:8-15, wrote:

Posture in prayer is never a matter of indifference. The slouching position of the body while one is suppose to be praying is an abomination to the Lord. . . . Different positions of arms, hands, and of the body as a whole, are indicated. All of these are permissible as long as they symbolize different aspects of the worshipper’s reverent attitude, and as long as they truly interpret the sentiments of the heart..


Exodus 9:29

And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD's.

Exodus 17:11, 12

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

1 Kings 8:22

And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:

Nehemiah 8:6

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Psalm 63:4

Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

Psalm 134:2

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.

Psalm 141:2

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Isaiah 1:15

And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

Lamentations 2:19

Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the LORD: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children, that faint for hunger in the top of every street.

Lamentations 3:41

Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

Habakkuk 3:10

The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.

Luke 24:50

And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

1 Timothy 2:8

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

James 4:8

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.


Remaining Questions....

1. Is it suppose to be only men who lift up holy hands as per 1 Timothy 2:8 or men and women which seem to be exampled by the other passages....

2. It regard to Church Order.. Should everybody have to practice it, sort of a All or None approach? The passages above show Ministers, and Laymen Lifting up of hands.. So it seems to be both or is it just the one who is speaking the words of prayer?

3. What if only one person does it in the congregation? Is he disorderly by being a distraction?
 

panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I don't think it is perfectly clear cut, though I do agree with the lifting of hands and eyes...

Luke 18

10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

12'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

13"But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

14"I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
 

Coram Deo

Puritan Board Junior
In Worship in the Presence of God, it is stated that Luke 18:13 falls under the section "other postures".

Luke 18:13 (Standing from Afar, striking the breast)

This posture was and is most likely like prostration which is reserved for special humiliation and mourning.. When grieving of severe sin...

I am not sure if they should be done in the public worship of God... But also notice that "He did not so much lift up his eyes" It does not say that they were closed but just cast down....



I don't think it is perfectly clear cut, though I do agree with the lifting of hands and eyes...

Luke 18

10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

12'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

13"But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

14"I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
 

jambo

Puritan Board Senior
I am amused today by our church prayer meetings where we sit and close our eyes which is quite different to the examples of people praying in the bible. In scripture we see people falling face down, or on their knees or standing to pray. Most of the time their eyes seemed to be open. When we read about Jesus praying he often had his eyes lifted to heaven. I did my own survey of prayer postures in the bible and as far as I can recall the only instance of one sitting to pray is David.

I think the posture of prayer relates to the type of praying. Worship in prayer lends itself to streatching out the hands whereas sorrowful confession is more subdued with the head bowed.

In private I always felt I could pray better when I knelt but I must confess that I often ended falling asleep. I actually find it a help to stand and lift the eyes towards heaven with arms outstreacted. It is also helpful to vocalise prayer rather than keep it silent.

During corporate prayer times in a previous church we encouraged those who wanted to kneel to kneel and those who wanted to stand to stand. If people wanted to raise their hands then they could do so. This was never seen as a distraction. However this was when I was in the Irish Republic where churches were small and the membership was around twenty. Maybe in a big church it would or could be more of a distraction. Having admitted to falling asleep when kneeling during my private devotions, it is interesting to note I never once fell asleep if kneeling at the church prayer meeting.

In one sense it does not matter so much that the eyes are looking heavenward but that the heart is looking heavenward.
 
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