On the basis of 1 Tim. 2:8, many Pentecostals, neo-Pentecostals and other charismatics claim that the only proper and effective way to pray in church meetings is with uplifted arms and hands. The Apostle Paul says: "I will therefore [in view of what he stated previously] that men pray every where [Greek, in every place], lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." It is only as we as Christians fulfill these three conditions mentioned by the Apostle that we can really pray effectively to our Heavenly Father and really expect our petitions to be answered (compare John 15:7; 1 John 3:22).
LIFTING UP HOLY HANDS
(1) We must continually be righteous in our conduct (Christ's blood-merit covering our Adamic imperfections), fullyconsecrated to God and holy (pious, devout) in our service for Him. Surely Paul was not in this first condition to acceptable prayer giving instruction as to the only proper physical posture that believers should take when praying; for we read of acceptable prayer being made also with head bowed (Luke 18:13), head uplifted (Luke 9:16; John 11:41; 17:1), kneeling (Dan. 6:10; Luke 22:41, 45; Acts 7:50; Eph. 3:14), and even while lying in bed (Psa. 63:6).
In Paul's expression he may have had in mind the common custom, among both the Jews and the heathen, of lifting up or spreading out the hands in prayer. E.g., Solomon, when dedicating the Temple, stood before the altar and "spread forth his hands toward heaven" (1 Kgs. 8:22), but at the end of his prayer (v. 54), he arose from before the altar … from kneeling … with his hands spread up to heaven" (compare 2 Chron. 6:13). Ezra also kneeled when he spread out his hands in prayer (Ezra 9:5). But neither the standing nor the kneeling determines what should be the posture generally or exclusively in prayer in the Christian churches.
Sometimes Psa. 28:2; 134:2 and 141:2, which speak of prayer and the uplifting of hands, are cited as indicating that this is the only proper posture when prayer is offered in Christian congregations; but why not cite also Psa. 95:6, which says, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker"? None of these Old Testament texts was given for definitive instruction as to Christian church meetings, as respects the proper posture in prayer. Christians are at liberty to choose their posture in prayer. In church meetings it properly is sometimes standing, sometimes seated and sometimes kneeling.
The Jews also washed their hands before prayer: "I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord" (Psa. 26:6); but does this mean that we must always wash our literal hands before we can offer acceptable prayer? Surely not! The clean hands here stand figuratively for clean conduct—we are to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (1 Chron. 16:29). God will not grant the petitions of those who come to Him with figuratively unclean hands: "When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood" (Isa. 1:15-18; compare Isa. 59:1-3; Job 17:9; Psa. 24:3, 4; 1 Pet. 3:7).
Paul's earnest desire was that we purge out the old leaven of sin, error, selfishness and worldliness, so that we can come to God in a cleansed (justified) condition, lifting up figurative holy (consecrated) hands, and thus be acceptable and prepared to receive answers to our prayers. It may be that some early Christian congregations lifted up literal hands in prayer, and Paul may have had this in mind, at least partly, when he exhorted the brethren to pray, lifting up holy hands. Surely he would not have objected to their praying with literal arms and hands uplifted; but to think that he meant only literal hands made literally holy is to miss the spiritual truth that he was trying to impress. Like the Master's, his words "are spirit, and they are life"—"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh [including as to exactly how we hold our arms and hands in prayer, etc.] profiteth nothing" (John 6:63).
The Apostle was an able minister, "not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6). Those who are spiritually minded will understand, appreciate and profit by the spiritual application of Paul's exhortation, that we pray, lifting up figurative holy hands, i.e., in holy conduct, fully devoted to God, and serving Him in spirit and in truth; they will look beneath the surface for the spiritual meaning—"For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:10).
(2) Paul mentions next that we are to put away wrath. This second one of the conditions pertains directly, not to our external conduct, our service to God, but to our heart—our will to do God's will, our intentions, our affections. The heart, as well as the conduct, must be "Holiness unto the Lord" (Zech. 14:20, 21). "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23; see also Psa. 24:3, 4; Prov. 23:7; James 4:8). Our hearts are to be free from wrath, from unrighteous anger and bitterness; we are not to harbor ill will or vindictive feelings against any person (Rom. 13:8-10; Eph. 4:26, 31; 1 John 4:20).
How can we ask God to "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," if we hold such feelings against them? Jesus warns us (Matt. 6:15): "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." But this forgiveness must come not only externally—"lifting up holy hands"—it must come "from your hearts" (Matt. 18:35). How vital it is, then, that we allow no "root of bitterness" to spring up in our hearts and defile us, thus making us unacceptable to God in prayer (Heb. 12:15)!
(3) Paul instructs also that we are to have a strong faith—one that is withoutdoubting [Greek, dialogismos, discussion, disputation, (external) debate, doubt]. If we would have our prayers answered we must "ask in [the full assurance of] faith, nothing wavering. … Let not that man [who wavers in doubtings and negative thoughts and reasonings] think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (James 1:6, 7; compare Heb. 11:6; Matt. 9:29; 21:22; Mark 9:23; 11:22-24). There is no excuse for doubting; "for he is faithful that promised" (Heb. 10:23).
From the above we see that Paul's words in 1 Tim. 2:8 are filled with rich spiritual blessings for those who have and exercise the holy Spirit. Let us not overlook the spiritual significance in his teachings, and claim that prayers should be offered only with the posture of uplifted fleshly arms and hands.
SPIRIT BAPTISMS AND "TONGUES-SPEAKING"
Generally, charismatics claim that "tongues-speaking" is the manifestation of the individual believer's baptism with the holy Spirit—his own "Pentecost" experience—and therefore that there are repeated Spirit baptisms, like the one at Pentecost. But the Scriptures do not support their claim.
The Scriptures show that there was to be but one baptism of the Spirit for the Church as a whole, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). The supplementary manifestation 3½ years later, when the first Gentiles—Cornelius and his household—came into the Body of Christ (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15), was necessary to show unmistakably that God then had received and thenceforth would receive Gentiles as well as Jews into the Body (see The At-One-Ment Between God and Man, Chap. IX). But, according to the Scriptures, there was no further necessity for, nor were there to be, any further Pentecosts for the Church, though "afterward"—after the Gospel Age —there is to be a Pentecostal blessing for the world —"all flesh" (Joel 2:28; for further discussion of this, please see The Bible Standard No. 255—a copy free on request).
The baptism of the holy Spirit which came upon the Church at Pentecost has remained with it all down through the Age, and as each one has come into the true Church, he has come under and shared in that original baptism of the Spirit. However, before anyone has been prepared to get this blessing of the Lord's Spirit, first of all he has had to have the justification by faith in Jesus Christ and a heart free from the love of sin, and has had to make his solemn resolution to use his life in serving the Lord, the Truth and the brethren—his vow of consecration (Rom. 12:1)—before he could be in the right attitude to receive the blessing of the enlightenment, the comfort and the fellowship of the Father and the Son in Their holy Spirit (1 John 1:3). All of God's people have had to come into an attitude similar to that of the brethren who were blessed on Pentecost day, in order to enter into the special favors and privileges of the Gospel Age.
Even though inflamed with the desire to serve the Lord, the Truth and the brethren, the wise course for anyone to follow is the course of the early Church—to study and pray—that he may be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), before attempting to act as God's ambassador to others. Indeed, no one is authorized, from the Scriptural standpoint, to preach the Gospel, much or little, except first he have received the authorization of God's holy Spirit from above (compare Isa. 61:1).
While opposing the unscriptural view—that new Pentecosts, new Spirit baptisms and miraculous "gifts" of the Spirit are to be prayed for—let us not lose sight of the important fact that until each member of the Body received his share of the blessing of the first Pentecost, he could not have the perfect peace of God (Isa. 26:3; Phil. 4:7), nor be properly, actively and successfully His servants and ambassadors. Would that all of the Lord's people would seek earnestly for a larger measure of the holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)—watching and praying thereunto (Eph. 6:18), watching their words, their thoughts and their deeds, the leadings of God's providence, and opportunities for His service! Let us ask Him to grant us more and more the emptying of worldly ambitions and desires, and more and more the filling with the mind or spirit of Christ—His disposition, rather than to seek for the redundant "gift" of tongues.
THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS
So let our daily lives express The beauties of true holiness; So let the Christian graces shine, That all may know the power divine.
Let love and faith and hope and joy Be pure, and free from sin's alloy; Let Christ's sweet spirit reign within, And grace subdue the power of sin.
Our Father, God, to Thee we raise Our prayer for help to tread Thy ways— For wisdom, patience, love and light, For grace to speak and act aright.