I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling (1 Timothy 2:8)

  1. Are there any groups in Christian circles that take the part about "lifting holy hands" as an admonition or command for how to pray, and therefore practice this regularly?
  2. If so, do they also make a distinction between men and women doing so (by the fact that the first part of the verse may be seen as being addressed directly to the men)?
  3. And finally, is it known whether lifting hands during prayer was just a common tradition at the time Paul wrote to Timothy, in which case the emphasis might not have been on the "lifting hands" part, but more on the "holy...without anger or quarreling" part?
  • The typical image of a person's praying is having the two palms touch each other. Does that count?
    – Double U
    Sep 8, 2013 at 22:51
  • 1
    Many, many Christian groups do this, particularly the Charismatic groups. A comprehensive list if groups that practice this would be impractical to compile, it's so common. Sep 8, 2013 at 22:54
  • @DavidStratton I'm familiar with charismatic groups lifting hands during singing, but no so much during prayer...and if so, always thought it to be more along the same reasons for doing so during singing. Do the charismatics lift hands during prayer in response to this verse (which is the focus of my question), or just because it "feels right"? I'm interested that many Christian groups lift up hands during prayer as I rarely recall seeing it done in a number of the Protestant denominations I've been a part of over the years.
    – RSW
    Sep 8, 2013 at 23:01
  • @Anonymous Probably not...the image given by this verse is one of holding hands out front or over one's head, and most likely with the hands separated. The hands are usually held upward as a gesture "towards" God as if he were above us...like if gesturing heavenward
    – RSW
    Sep 8, 2013 at 23:04
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    @rsw yes to both. It's common for prayer, and this verse is cited when explaining it, although it's not uniquely Christian. joyfulheart.com/scholar/hands.htm Sep 8, 2013 at 23:24

2 Answers 2


Many Christian groups practice this. It's quite common. So much so, that it's considered ordinary among many groups. It's especially common in Charismatic groups, but it's also found in more conservative groups such as Baptists.

From Joyful Heart Ministries:

To classic Pentecostals lifting the hands in praise and prayer is second nature, flowing from a tradition decades old. But to the new convert or non-Pentecostal just entering the Charismatic movement, the custom may be new and awkward. Most traditional Protestants have only seen the minister lift his hands to give the benediction or blessing upon the people. Questions follow: Why lift hands to worship and pray? What does this practice mean? As we explore the twenty-eight verses in the Bible on this subject we will find answers to these questions.

And later on in the article:

Lifted hands must not mask sin. Worship offered to God while still practicing iniquity is an abomination (cf. Ps 40:6-8; 50:7-23; 51:16-19; Is 1:11-18). Defiled lives must be cleansed by repentance: "When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean ...." (Isaiah 1:15-16; cf. 59:1-3). R*ather we are to lift up "holy hands without anger or quarreling" (1 Timothy 2:8).* The prophet Jeremiah admonishes the Israelites mourning the destruction of Jerusalem, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord! Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in the heavens" (Lamentations 3:40-41, KJV).

A typical search on a major search engine will list thousands of results for anyone wishing to learn more.

  • Ha! The first hit for the search query you linked was the story of the battle against the Amalekites, which I was going to suggest mentioning. There Aaron and Hur kept Moses' hands raised so that Israel would win the battle. (I am posting this comment anyway.)
    – user3331
    Sep 9, 2013 at 15:28

The New American Bible (used at the Catholic Mass) uses the "Holy Hands" translation and that's a pretty 1-to-1 translation from the Latin puras manus don't know about the greek, but other Bibles translate it as

hands that are sanctified

which means the same thing, but certainly reads differently and might have a different connotation.

In the Catholic tradition, the hands of a priest are venerated and considered holy as it is his hands who consecrate the bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ. At ordination, a priest's hands are anointed with oil.

The priest also lifts his hands when he prays the Lord's Prayer at mass.

Priest lifting hands during Lord's Prayer at mass

And in some congregations, the people for some strange reason follow along, maybe their hands are holy too?

  • not quite 1-to-1 translation; puras is closer to "pure", "clean" or "clear." "Holy" would be more properly either sanctas or sacras.
    – Wtrmute
    Mar 8, 2017 at 13:13

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