Lifting Up Holy Hands

Intro: This morning we are going to focus our attention on the text of our theme for this month:

1 Timothy 2:8-15–Men and Women Professing Godliness

  • 1 Tim 2:8-158 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

We are not going to study or discuss all of these words today. There is more here than we can adequately cover even in the month ahead. But I do want to focus on v. 8 today.- I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;

I. Noticing the Context: As always, we take notice of the context (surrounding passages) in order to come to the best understanding of the text. Paul has been encouraging prayer in a general way. 1 Tim 2:1-5– Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, [The Lord-willing, we will discuss v. 1-2, Paul’s exhortation for us to pray for all men so that we can lead quiet and peaceable lives].

A. But what I want us to notice here is that Paul uses the word men (Man) four times in these verses. The original word in the Greek in all four places is anthropos (anth’-ro-pos) which means a human being, irrespective of gender. He is telling us to pray for everyone (not just males) in v. 1; and that God desires to save everyone (both males and females) in v. 4; and that Jesus is the mediator for every person (male and female) in v. 5. The word depicts humanity, so he uses it of Jesus in v. 5, because that is the thought.

B. But in v. 8 Paul uses a different word8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere… The word here is aner (an-ayr’) which means a male person, as opposed to a female person (woman). Vine’s says it is never used of a female person, and “stands in distinction from a woman” Paul is specifying gender here. This is a distinction that is not apparent in the English, (both words are translated as men; man), but is evident in the Greek.

1. This implies something to me. The specific context of Paul’s words here in chapter 2 is the public worship assembly of the church. He is identifying the leadership role of men in praying in the assembly. He is going to teach further on the distinctive roles of men and women in the assembly in v. 11-15, in limiting the public teaching in the assembly to men. This harmonizes with what the NT teaches in 1 Cor. 14:34-35.

II. Lifting up Holy Hands – we notice that Paul inserts the phrase everywhere in v.8. This is significant in that it proves false, the popular notion among both the Jews and the Gentiles, that prays offered in certain places (temple, or the place where idols were worshipped) were more efficacious than prayers offered elsewhere. Jesus taught against this notion as well in John 4. There was no particular physical location that made worship acceptable, but the proper location of in spirit and truth (John 4:4) Wherever public worship is offered men are to pray…

A. Lifting Up… What is entailed in the command, lifting up holy hands? Is God commanding that we physically lift our hands up when we pray?

1. The practice of lifting hands in prayer was common in the time of the apostle and before.

a. In that great revival meeting of Nehemiah and Ezra – Neh 8:6– And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

b. Ps 141:2Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

c. Lamentations 3:41– Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.

d. When Solomon was officiating at the dedication of the Temple – 1 Kings 8:22-2322 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. The lifting of hands toward heaven was a common position for praying and was in that sense a custom that the apostle commends. Even today two hands lifted up together is symbolic of praying.

2. But the Bible does not specify a bodily position for praying. People in the Bible are described as praying while standing, sitting down, kneeling, looking upward, bowed down, laying flat on the ground, and pounding on their chest. Although the bodily position may be indicative of a humbled spirit, the Lord does not command a certain position, nor does one position make our prayers more readily heard by God.

a. A story of three ministers debating the best posture for prayer. One minister said that he felt that the key was in lifting up the hands toward the heavens. Another minister suggested that real prayer was conducted on one’s knees. The third said that the only position in which to pray was to lie on the floor, flat on your face. As they were talking, a telephone repairman had been working in the background, listening. Finally, he couldn’t take it any longer. He blurted out, “For me, the most powerful prayer I ever prayed was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole, 40 feet above the ground!”

B. Holy Hands… Rather than commanding a certain physical requirement for prayer, I am convinced that the apostle is referencing a common manner of praying at that time to command a critical prerequisite to leading others in prayer – holy hands. The word for holy here is hosios, (hos’-ee-os) not the more familiar hagios, that means separated for God’s use; sanctified. This word signifies what is religiously right, as opposed to what is polluted or stained (unrighteous). It is often associated in the scriptures with one who is careful of all the duties toward God (Word Study NT Dictionary). He is holy because he is obedient.

1. This term corresponds well to Paul’s use of it here. The man’s hands are holy, not because they are dedicated to God, or sacred in their use, but holy in that they have not been used to do evil. Thus, what this passage is commanded concerning the one who prays is not a physical act, but a spiritual characteristic. Praying is act of submission (not my will, but your will be done). Men who lead others in prayers must display lives of submission – their hands must be holy.

2. Consider Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. The “them” in this passage is the wife. God commands wives to be in submission to the leadership of their husbands. But Peter gives specific instructions to the husband to give honor to the wife as the weaker vessel (the more vulnerable partner in the marriage). He must submit to the needs of his wife, and think of her above himself. If he fails to do this his prayer will be hindered. His hands will not be holy.

a. Peter goes to call for compassion, love for others, tenderheartedness and courtesy (3:8-9). His motivation for them to develop these spiritual fruits is right out of the words of the 34th Psalm. 1 Peter 3:12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

b. In the first chapter of Isaiah the prophet rebukes Judah for their idolatry and wickedness. (He calls them Sodom and Gomorrah-v. 9) and refuses to accept their sacrifices and offerings. Notice what he tells them… Isa 1:15-17When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. 16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. They could lift up their hands all day long, but if those hands were stained with the blood of the innocent, and their lives were characterized by wickedness, God would not hear them.

c. There is a message here for us. We see a world in a big mess and earnestly desire for God to do something about it. We want Him to change hearts and save our families and our country from ruin. So we pray and call on others to pray. We pray in our public worship assemblies. What can we expect if we lift up our hands to God. Nothing if those hands are no holy. We need to be godly men whose hands are pure and righteous before God. I like the wording of the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation James 5:16The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.

C. Without wrath or Disputing… The word translated as wrath is the word orge and is defined as anger, violent passion. It is translated as anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath. The word translated as doubting (dialogismos -dee-al-og-is-mos’) is also translated as disputing (NIV) and quarreling (ESV). It means contentiousness or debating. Lenski contends that this word has a much broader meaning and refers to wrong thinking in general.

1. What is the apostle teaching us? Wrong thinking contaminates our prayers and disqualifies our petitions. If there is unresolved anger in our hearts is renders us unfit for worship. Matt 5:22-24 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

2. I am also convinced that what Paul is telling young Timothy that prayers must be offered with pure motives. I cannot ask God to act on my anger or to take my side in a quarrel.

a. In the coming weeks we will be studying in Luke 18 in our Wed. class. You remember the familiar parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the Temple? Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

b. What was the reason for this parable? Who was it directed toward? Those who trusted in themselves and despised others. That what was displayed in the prayer of the Pharisee – pride and anger (hatred). This man was praying in wrath. He was petitioning God to take his side against the extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. The publican prayed with humble and pure motives. He wanted God to be merciful to him.

Conclusion: Praying is at the center of our survival in this wicked world. It is our pipeline to the only power that can, and has overcome evil. We must pray everywhere. But we must lift up holy hands. We must make a commitment to obey God and use our hands for righteousness, so God will bless us.

If you are not a child of God, you cannot lift up holy hands, because you still bear the guilt of your sins. Without the blood of Jesus, you cannot be holy. But that blood is available to you through faith and obedience to the gospel message. He that believes and is baptized will be saved ( 16:16)