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- Christianity, the Bible & Jesus
Why do we put our hands together when praying?
Thoughts on prayer in the Bible
To the best of my knowledge and limited research, the bible says nothing about how to place your hands when you pray. The bible tells us to pray without ceasing, to pray to God and to listen when God answers our prayers. There are many people in the bible who offer prayers, and many more who misunderstand the power of prayer. Jesus heals people, cares for people, and teaches us the Lord’s Prayer. All of this helps us to understand some of the importance of prayer, but none really helps us to understand how we should place our body, or more specifically our hands when we offer a prayer to God. There are people who say you need to raise them up to God, or that everyone knows you put them palms together, fingers out… but why? I have come up with several suggestions, and like many questions with religion, there is not just one answer, I hope one of these helps, or at least leads you into the right direction of the answer you seek.
Hands together forms a circle of prayer
The closing of the hands creates a circle, it allows us to become one unit, able to feel the power of Jesus in our lives and in our prayer. One of the uses I see with creating a circle is when you pray for another person or with a group of people. When everyone joins hands they create a community, a unit of one that shows how many people while different can be united in an action for God. We can all come together and show that we are one in the Spirit, accepting God and showing that unity by joining our palms with another person. When I pray for someone who is sick or upset, I hold their hands. This creates a smaller circle, but it helps both people feel the presence of another. The knowledge of knowing we are not alone in times of sickness and pain is a great comfort for some. I think that same thought can be brought into when we pray by ourselves. It allows us to feel the presence of someone else, that when our own palms are together we can know that we are not alone in our prayer, that we are being listened to and our concerns with truly be heard in a loving manner.
It helps us be at peace, if only for a moment
It helps to focus our thoughts. Too many times I wonder what I am supposed to do with my hands when I offer prayers to people. When I put my hands together to pray it is one less concern while I am thinking about what to pray about. I am easily distracted by nature, so to have something I can silence helps focus me from some of the other thoughts I cannot silence as easily. It offers me the option of quieting a part of my body and allowing me to be more at peace. In our busy world, finding a moment of peace is a wonderful gift. Also being the father of a five year old son, it allows me the knowledge that he is going to have his hands in one place for at least a little while. It helps with children to keep them from hitting each other, poking their sister or generally being disrespectful during the time of prayer. It helps children understand there is more to praying than just saying words; the body is involved as well. My son knows to put his hands together and put his head on his hands, which allows him to pray focused. We all need a little reminder to simply quiet ourselves during time spent talking with God.
One answer is simply tradition! My grandmother always folded her hands so I do too. There are many times we don’t really understand the reason why we do something because it is so ingrained in who we are and how we were brought up. By bringing our hands together in prayer we are connecting with those we love, those who went before us and taught us so much. The simple action helps us to remember all the good of the person, all the stories and lessons they have given us, opening us up to more thoughtful and reflective prayer. While not understanding why we put our hands together, understanding that others before us have always done it this way may be enough to help us in our own time of need or prayer.
Signs of forgiveness and submission
Having the hands together is also a sign of asking for forgiveness. Allowing us to be in the right posture to pray to God for forgiveness and mercy, for hope and peace. Some cultures also consider it a sign of submission and respect. We take the time and action to show God we are respectful to all God has done for us. We also submit to the life God has called us to live, to show others mercy and love, to be kind and not repay hurt with hurt. Putting our hands together allows us to understand the power of God’s grace and involvement in our own lives. We offer ourselves in submission, accepting the life God has given us to live out, in happiness and challenge, in joy and struggle, every aspect of our life helping us to become a better person in the eyes of God.
Pray, just... Pray
However people pray, it is a chance to be closer to God. I was asked why we put our hands together and realized I did not have an answer right then. After some thought and surfing on the web I realized no one had a great answer. While I admit I still don’t have the perfect answer, I can offer this… as long as you pray with the full knowledge that God hears you and loves you, you are doing it perfectly. If you place your hands in the air, on your heart, hold someone else’s, or simply offer your hands in offering to God, allow God to work in and through you. Take time to pray every day, it is time well spent with the Lord.
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