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

I was once told that in context this verse refers only to the pastor.

  • Are there good exegetical reasons for thinking this, or is this a more general command to the congregation?
  • Is it known what the practice of the early church was in this matter?
  • What is the significance of lifted hands?
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Jewish method of prayer was not folding hands as many Westerners do today, but rather to hold up the hands and face towards heaven. Tim Chailles (a Christian blogger notes this is mentioned in severla Psalms - see this link, especially towards the 'Lifting Hands' section.) Additionally, the Jewish Encyclopedia shows a relief of Jews entering the presence of Sennachirb using this gesture, showing the respect intended.

By lifting the hands towards God, the pray-er is able to show God, "look, I have washed my hands, I am coming to you as one who has been made clean, I can approach."

In calling all men to "lift holy hands," Paul is simply encouraging people to pray as they always have, albeit in a more pure manner.

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I remember this discussion from seminary, but I'll see if I can find a sourceable link – Affable Geek May 10 '12 at 15:05
Although, the 666 reputation is tempting to keep :) – Affable Geek May 10 '12 at 15:06

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