Recently I had the chance to hear a man teach on the importance of christians praying together. His three sermons focused on how to carry out the essential but neglected task of corporate prayer. For the first time in my life, I found myself concentrating all of my attention on the need to combine a regular private prayer life with a steady diet of praying with other Christians. The lessons were inspirational but the activities and prompts the pastor wove into each session helped each of us retain so much more!
After teaching the group six different biblical postures of praying (bowing, kneeling, laying prostrate, standing with eyes toward Heaven, seated before the Lord, hands lifted in prayer), he paused for a moment to help us understand that lifting hands in church is so much more than an emotional response to music. He said, “You know that lifting your hands in worship is actually a command right?” The room’s silence provided him an honest and immediate answer. You could tell that he wanted to spend more time on this sub-point but instead he simply reminded us that Paul instructed men to lift their hands and pray. That phrase caught my attention, but if I’m honest, I could not remember where this passage was located. As the students in the retreat center were given instructions to practice the six postures of prayer, and prompted with revival sparking specific prayer topics, I was in the back opening up my bible app to find the referenced verse. Eventually, I stumbled upon 1 Timothy 2:8:
“Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.”
After Paul gave specific instructions to Timothy regarding prayer, he gave this charge specifically to men. Isn’t this a wonderful picture? Men that are holy, meaning they have been justified and are being sanctified as they pursue Christ, lifting their hands to Heaven as they pray. Paul is not advising that men do this for show, and they are certainly not being encouraged to rely on emotion for such displays. This is a picture of Christian men lifting their hands in surrender to their King, and it inspired me.
One of the many great things about working with youth in the church is their willingness to try new things. Youth seem to be more willing than adults to stand out. This was no different on the occasion that the teacher began to lead the gathered youth through different posture suggestions. As he continued to prompt the prayers of the group, the students did not even hesitate! All over the room, you could see men standing with eyes and arms lifted to Heaven along with expressions of all the other five postures. It was truly a powerful experience that I am sure we will never forget.
The next morning I wanted to pray for the youth leaders in the presence of the rest of the church body. Before I prayed, I read 1 Timothy 2:8 and asked the Christian men in the room to follow Paul’s direction as we prayed for these leaders. When I began praying I closed my eyes and did not look to see who lifted their hands. Frankly, it is none of my business how they choose to pray, but I did notice a difference in the room. The youth in the retreat center, just one day earlier, showed very little reservation when it came to following this simple command from the Bible. However, when the gathered Sunday morning crowd, made up primarily of adults, heard the verse with my encouragement to lift their hands, you could feel deep hesitation as if it were a thick cloud in the air. This hesitation is something that we have all faced as believers, but it caused me to begin to dream. I dreamt of the sight of Church buildings filled with godly Fathers and Grandfathers praying with their hands lifted. Doing so with sacrificial servant leadership and the peace of no quarreling or anger!
It is easy for men to act tough. It’s even easier to start or finish a fight. It might also be easy to justify arguments in living rooms and church business meetings because of misplaced passion and a wrong understanding of “righteous” anger. Nevertheless, these behaviors should only be found in lost boys. Men, lifting your hands in prayer is not a proud symbol of importance designed to make us feel like William Wallace or Gladiator’s Maximus. It is a simple way to follow God’s word, and to visually remind yourself and others that we are totally reliant on our Master. To Him we surrender all.
Men, resist the urge to put on a show, and make your private prayer life the stream that overflows into a public display of surrender in view of those closest to you. Your church is in desperate need of men who are willing to stand out.