Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Is it ok to lift your hands while praying? Do you have to fold your hands and close your eyes? Is there are correct posture for prayer?

In the Bible you find many different postures for prayer recorded. What posture a person chooses to employ while praying seems to be often dependent upon the emotional state of the one offering the prayer. The Apostle Paul encouraged Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If our life is to be permeated with prayer one would assume that different postures of prayer would be acceptable. If I am praying while running on a treadmill or driving, my prayer posture will be very different from my bedside prayers or even a group prayer.

Examples of Prayer Postures in the New Testament
  • Lifting Hands (1 Timothy 2:8) - “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing”
  • Kneeling (Acts 20:36) - “When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all”.
  • Looking Upward (John 17:1) - “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You”
  • Looking Downward While Beating One’s Chest (Luke 18:13) - "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!'
Yes, it is ok to lift your hands while praying, as are many different postures. Ultimately God is not really concerned with the externals of prayer, rather the attitude of one’s heart. If a person is overly focused on their posture while praying, they may fall into the trap of only praying to be seen, which Jesus condemned in (Matthew 6:5).
"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full”.
One’s attitude, location, occasion and ability dictate how they should pray. When my heart is full of sorrow I may choose to drop to my knees, on the other-hand if I am expressing joy to God I may lift my hands look up toward the sky and declare “Thank You God!”. In a small group I may hold the hands of those around me and if I am in a congregational setting, I usually make the judgement call to emulate the posture of the one leading the prayer or at least those around me so as not to be a distraction or a disruption

In conclusion, pray all the time! Certain situations often call for certain postures and other times it is completely up to the discretion of the one praying. 

By Cliff Sabroe
Quotations from NASB95
Image of a Veiled Women Praying 200AD from scrollpublishing.com