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Hindered Prayers (Part 2)

Hindered Prayers

(Part 2)

by Mark Grant

Published in
The Christian Informer
May, 2002

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Last updated:
May 4, 2002.


The apostle Paul wrote and instructed Timothy, "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Timothy 2:8). The first thing that Paul establishes with Timothy is that the "men" are to conduct and lead the public worship service. "I desire" does not express the tone of authority represented in the verb, (boulomai) that means, "it is my will" as others translate "I will" (KJV). Those who lead prayers in any public worship service must be the men of the congregation, and not the women if it is going to be acceptable unto God (1 Corinthians 14:33-34). A woman's positive duty in the church (or any public place) is to make herself noticeable by good works, not by personal display. Whether it be in the Church or in a spiritual matter Paul sets forth the principle that a Christian woman's role, in relation to the man, is one of subordination and she is not to act in an authoritative way (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

"That the men pray everywhere" or "in every place" is directions that are to be applied to every Church (or public gathering) without exception. No allowance is to be made for abnormal conditions no matter where the location of the congregation might be. Otherwise, the woman who wants to get in the public pulpit will be on modern-day television, radio, Sunday School classes, and even a street corner, etc., etc. The Bible teaches that location of worship and prayer is not at all what is important, but it is the attitude of the worshiper who desires to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:20-24).

"Lifting up holy hands" is not an example demanding a posture in prayer, but is merely an allusion to the ancient practice of presenting the uplifted hands in respectful petition to God (2 Chronicles 6:12-13; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalms 141:2). "Holy hands" here mean hands that are not defiled by habitual sin, for men who lead public prayer cannot pray effectively unless their lives are clean and committed to God. The idea is, that men who approach God in public worship should do so in a pure and holy manner. The New Century Version translates this as, "So, I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up their hands in a holy manner without anger and arguments" (I Timothy 2:8). David said that when he was in God's house that, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me, He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me" (Psalms 66: 18-20). It was Solomon who wrote, "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Prov. 28:9). Sin in the Christian life can hinder our prayers unto God, especially leaders in the Lord's church. So let us all strive to live a life of moral purity for "as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.' And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear" ( 1 Peter 1: 15-17).

"Without wrath" comes from the Greek word "orge" that is defined as, "wrath, anger, vengeance, and indignation." J. H. Thayer explains "orge" as, "especially oriented to revenge or punishment." W. E. Vine's suggests, "a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge." It is impossible for a Christian to pray with comfort, or to suppose that his prayers will be heard, if he cherishes vindictive feelings toward another person. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:15). "The wrath [orge] of man," said James, "does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1 :20). Paul wrote, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath [orge], anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:30-32). Some of the actions and attitudes which Christians display can grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Paul warns us that bitterness, wrath, uproars, slander and bad attitudes toward others are not to be a part of the Christian life. Instead of acting this way we should be compassionate and forgiving just as God is tenderhearted and forgiving toward us. Are you bringing sorrow or pleasing God with your attitudes and actions? We are to act in love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, just as God acted in love by sending his Son to die for our sins. If we are to obey Jesus, all wrath must be eliminated from life, and especially that wrath which lingers too long and seeks revenge. It is a warning to all Christians that if we have wrath in our heart, it is a barrier which will hinder our prayers from reaching God.

"And doubting" can have two different meanings. The Greek word used is "dialogismos," which can mean both doubt and disputing. But the context seems to favor "disputing," since the Greek word dialogismos clearly has this meaning in Romans 14:1 and Philippians 2:14. The New International version translates this verse as, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (1 Timothy 2:8). As Christian leaders we are not to approach God in prayer in the midst of loud disputing and angry contentions. We are not to pray with a mind that is heated from arguments, and irritated by strife for victory. Bitterness that can come from quarrels and venomous wrangling are all a hindrance to prayer. "Do all things without complaining and disputing" (Phil. 2: 14). Prayer is to be offered in a calm, serious, sober state of mind, and they who engage in fiery disputations, or in hot contention of any kind, are little fitted to unite in the solemn act of addressing God.

In conclusion, prayer is a simple act and a comfort to believers, who from the beginning have turned with confidence and faith to God. A believer is to pray about everything, confident that God hears prayers, cares, and is able to act. "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Those whose lives demonstrate that they have no significant relationship with God (the unjust, the unconcerned, and the disobedient) have no basis on which to expect prayer to be heard. But those who experience a growing relationship with God marked by trust, obedience, love and harmony with other believers can rest assured God does hear the prayers of those who live close to him. "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6,7 N.L.T.).

[Part 1 of this message appears in the April, 2002 issue.]