Lift Up Holy Hands in Prayer

by Scarlett Stough

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: The Prayer of Faith.

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
1 Timothy 2:8

Lifting up hands toward God in prayer and praise is mentioned in the Psalms in several places (Psalm 28:2; 134:2; 63:4). This is not about body position; this is about attitude position. This is about acknowledging God has the power and authority to hear and to answer our prayers. He does know what we need and even promises to answer before we call (Isaiah 65:24), but we do need to call out (James 4:2.)

When we approach God, we need humility to accept his answer even if it is not the answer we wanted. We need faith to trust God has our best interests at heart. Faith does not mean convincing yourself that you can ask for a new leg to grow when you’ve lost one. We are invited to "pray about everything," but always in the frame of mind "if God wills." Paul writes to the Corinthians about his own petition which God denied:

To keep me from being conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul doesn’t tell us what this "thorn" was, but it doesn’t matter since "thorns" can come in many forms, not just the one Paul had to endure. Our "thorns" or difficulties of health or circumstance also serve to keep us aware of our dependence on God and the strength available from him.

Faith does mean knowing God "rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). It is also "living by faith" while we wait for "a better country" (Hebrews 11:13-16).

God gives examples of people "living by faith". During the Israelites journey from Egypt, they were attacked by Amalekites, a hostile nomadic tribe which preyed on travelers, murdering them and stealing their goods. Joshua, the leader of the fighting men, was instructed to take some of them to fight the Amalekites off while Moses sat on the hill holding the staff of God in his hands.

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other---so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Exodus 17:8-13

God did not need Moses to hold the staff up toward heaven so that Joshua and his small army could defeat the Amalekites. But Israel did need to know God was the one who gave the victory. We are not so different today. Without prayer acknowledging God is the one who determines the outcome, we can begin to think how great we are instead of how great God is.

Besides humility and faith in God’s faithfulness, holy conduct, "holy hands", is a requirement for entrance before God’s throne. Anytime anyone points out that God commands us to "be holy" someone will accuse "legalist, legalist!" We are not talking here about "earning salvation". Eternal life is God's gift to those who turn back to him in trust and obedience. Trust and Obey as the old song goes, like Love and Marriage (or as it should) go together, so does faith and obedience (James 2:12-26).

What we lack, God provides. Through Christ we can have the holiness God requires and the strength to live righteous lives (Ephesians 4:20-24; 5:27).

Prayers of confession and repentance are always heard because God is faithful:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

What if you don't know what to say to God? We have a Helper.

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
Romans 8:26-27

Because Jesus is the Son of God and our high priest, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

While we are petitioning God about our needs and our troubles, we need to also remember to thank him for all the good we already enjoy and for the good God intends for us now and always (Philippians 4:6; Romans 8:28).

Volume 14 Issue 04 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Movie Review

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