Lift Up Loyal Hands in Prayer
“I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer, lifting up loyal hands, apart from wrath and debates.”—1 TIMOTHY 2:8.
1, 2. (a) How does 1 Timothy 2:8 apply to prayer involving Jehovah’s people? (b) What will we now consider?
JEHOVAH expects his people to be loyal to him and to one another. The apostle Paul linked loyalty with prayer when he wrote: “I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer, lifting up loyal hands, apart from wrath and debates.” (1 Timothy 2:8) Apparently, Paul was referring to public prayer “in every place” where Christians met together. Who were to represent God’s people in prayer at congregation meetings? Only holy, righteous, reverent men who carefully observed all Scriptural duties toward God. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14) They had to be spiritually and morally clean and unquestionably devoted to Jehovah God.
2 Especially should congregation elders ‘lift up loyal hands in prayer.’ Their heartfelt prayers through Jesus Christ display loyalty to God and help them to avoid debates and outbursts of wrath. Actually, any man privileged to represent the Christian congregation in public prayer should be free from wrath, ill will, and disloyalty to Jehovah and his organization. (James 1:19, 20) What further Biblical guidelines are there for those who are privileged to represent others in public prayer? And what are some Scriptural principles that we should apply in our private and family prayers?
Give Prayer Advance Thought
3, 4. (a) Why is it beneficial to give public prayer advance thought? (b) What do the Scriptures indicate regarding the length of prayers?
3 If we have been asked to pray publicly, likely we will be able to give our prayer at least some advance thought. Doing this may enable us to cover appropriate important matters without saying a lengthy, rambling prayer. Of course, our private prayers can also be vocalized. They may be of any length. Jesus spent an entire night praying before he chose his 12 apostles. When he instituted the Memorial of his death, however, his prayers over the bread and wine were apparently rather brief. (Mark 14:22-24; Luke 6:12-16) And we know that even Jesus’ short prayers were completely acceptable to God.
4 Suppose we are privileged to represent a family in prayer before a meal. Such a prayer could be fairly short—but whatever is said should include an expression of gratitude for the food. If we are praying publicly before or after a Christian meeting, we do not need to offer a long prayer covering many points. Jesus criticized the scribes who ‘made long prayers for a pretext.’ (Luke 20:46, 47) Never would a godly person want to do that. At times, though, a somewhat longer public prayer may be appropriate. For instance, an elder chosen to say the final prayer at an assembly should give it advance thought and may desire to mention several points. Yet, even such a prayer should not be of excessive length.
Approach God With Reverence
5. (a) What should we bear in mind when praying publicly? (b) Why pray in a dignified and respectful manner?
5 When praying publicly we should remember that we are not addressing humans. Rather, we are sinful creatures petitioning the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. (Psalm 8:3-5, 9; 73:28) We should therefore manifest reverential fear of displeasing him by what we say and how we express it. (Proverbs 1:7) The psalmist David sang: “As for me, in the abundance of your loving-kindness I shall come into your house, I shall bow down toward your holy temple in fear of you.” (Psalm 5:7) If we have that attitude, how will we express ourselves when asked to pray publicly at a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Well, if we were speaking to a human king, we would do so respectfully and with dignity. Should not our prayers be even more dignified and respectful, since we are praying to Jehovah, the “King of eternity”? (Revelation 15:3) So when praying we would avoid such statements as, “Good morning, Jehovah,” “We send you our love,” or, “Have a nice day.” The Scriptures show that God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, never addressed his heavenly Father in that way.
6. What should we bear in mind when we ‘approach the throne of undeserved kindness’?
6 Paul said: “Let us . . . approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness.” (Hebrews 4:16) We can approach Jehovah with “freeness of speech” in spite of our sinful state because of our faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:42, 43; 20:20, 21) Yet, such “freeness of speech” does not mean that we are chatting with God; nor should we say disrespectful things to him. If our public prayers are to please Jehovah, they must be offered with proper respect and dignity, and it would be inappropriate to use them to make announcements, counsel individuals, or lecture an audience.
Pray With a Humble Spirit
7. How did Solomon manifest humility when praying at the dedication of Jehovah’s temple?
7 Whether we are praying publicly or privately, an important Scriptural principle to keep in mind is that we should display a humble attitude in our prayers. (2 Chronicles 7:13, 14) King Solomon manifested humility in his public prayer at the dedication of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Solomon had just completed one of the most magnificent buildings ever constructed on the earth. Yet, he humbly prayed: “Will God truly dwell upon the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens, themselves cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!”—1 Kings 8:27.
8. What are some ways that humility is shown in public prayer?
8 Like Solomon, we should be humble when representing others in public prayer. Although we should avoid sounding sanctimonious, humility can be shown by our tone of voice. Humble prayers are not bombastic or melodramatic. They draw attention, not to the person praying, but to the One addressed. (Matthew 6:5) Humility is also shown by what we say in prayer. If we pray humbly, we will not sound as though we are demanding that God do certain things our way. Rather, we will petition Jehovah to act in a manner that harmonizes with his sacred will. The psalmist exemplified the proper attitude when he pleaded: “Ah, now, Jehovah, do save, please! Ah, now, Jehovah, do grant success, please!”—Psalm 118:25; Luke 18:9-14.
Pray From the Heart
9. What fine counsel given by Jesus is found at Matthew 6:7, and how can it be applied?
9 If our public or private prayers are to please Jehovah, they must come from the heart. Thus, we will not merely repeat a prayer formula over and over again without thinking about what we are saying. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counseled: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they [mistakenly] imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.” Put another way, Jesus said: “Do not babble words; do not utter empty repetitions.”—Matthew 6:7; footnote.
10. Why would it be proper to pray about the same matter more than once?
10 Of course, we may need to pray about the same matter time and again. That would not be wrong because Jesus urged: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Perhaps there is a need for a new Kingdom Hall because Jehovah is prospering the local preaching work. (Isaiah 60:22) It would be proper to keep on mentioning this need when praying privately or when offering public prayers at meetings of Jehovah’s people. Doing so would not mean that we were ‘uttering empty repetitions.’
Remember Gratitude and Praise
11. How does Philippians 4:6, 7 apply to private and public prayer?
11 Many people pray only to ask for something, but our love for Jehovah God should move us to give him thanks and praise in both private and public prayer. “Do not be anxious over anything,” wrote Paul, “but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Yes, in addition to supplications and petitions, we should express thankfulness to Jehovah for spiritual and material blessings. (Proverbs 10:22) The psalmist sang: “Offer thanksgiving as your sacrifice to God, and pay to the Most High your vows.” (Psalm 50:14) And a prayerful melody of David included these touching words: “I will praise the name of God with song, and I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30) Should we not do the same in public and private prayer?
12. How is Psalm 100:4, 5 being fulfilled today, and for what can we therefore thank and praise God?
12 Regarding God, the psalmist sang: “Come into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courtyards with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For Jehovah is good; his loving-kindness is to time indefinite, and his faithfulness to generation after generation.” (Psalm 100:4, 5) Today, people of all nations are entering the courtyards of Jehovah’s sanctuary, and for this we can give him praise and thanks. Do you express gratitude to God for the local Kingdom Hall and demonstrate your appreciation by regularly assembling there with those who love him? While there, do you heartily raise your voice in songs of praise and thankfulness to our loving heavenly Father?
Never Feel Ashamed to Pray
13. What Scriptural example shows that we should supplicate Jehovah even if we feel unworthy because of guilt?
13 Even if we feel unworthy because of guilt, we should turn to God in earnest supplication. When the Jews sinned by taking foreign wives, Ezra knelt, spread out his loyal palms to God, and humbly prayed: “O my God, I do feel ashamed and embarrassed to raise my face to you, O my God, for our errors themselves have multiplied over our head and our guiltiness has grown great even to the heavens. From the days of our forefathers we have been in great guiltiness until this day . . . And after all that has come upon us for our bad deeds and our great guiltiness—for you yourself, O our God, have underestimated our error, and you have given us those who have escaped such as these—shall we go breaking your commandments again and forming marriage alliances with the peoples of these detestable things? Will you not get incensed at us to the limit so that there will be none remaining and none escaping? O Jehovah the God of Israel, you are righteous, because we have been left over as an escaped people as at this day. Here we are before you in our guiltiness, for it is impossible to stand before you on account of this.”—Ezra 9:1-15; Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.
14. As demonstrated in Ezra’s day, what is required in order to receive God’s forgiveness?
14 To receive God’s forgiveness, confession to him must be coupled with contrition and “fruits that befit repentance.” (Luke 3:8; Job 42:1-6; Isaiah 66:2) In Ezra’s day, a repentant attitude was accompanied by an effort to right the wrong by dismissing the foreign wives. (Ezra 10:44; compare 2 Corinthians 7:8-13.) If we are seeking God’s forgiveness for serious wrongdoing, let us make confession in humble prayer and produce fruits befitting repentance. A repentant spirit and a desire to right the wrong would also move us to seek the spiritual help of Christian elders.—James 5:13-15.
Draw Comfort From Prayer
15. How does Hannah’s experience show that we can find comfort in prayer?
15 When our heart is in pain for some reason, we can find comfort in prayer. (Psalm 51:17; Proverbs 15:13) Loyal Hannah did. She lived when large families were common in Israel, but she had borne no children. Her husband, Elkanah, had sons and daughters by his other wife, Peninnah, who taunted Hannah for being barren. Hannah prayed earnestly and promised that if she was blessed with a son, ‘she would give him to Jehovah all the days of his life.’ Comforted by her prayer and by the words of High Priest Eli, Hannah “became self-concerned no more.” She gave birth to a boy whom she named Samuel. Later, she turned him over for service at Jehovah’s sanctuary. (1 Samuel 1:9-28) Grateful for God’s kindness toward her, she offered a prayer of thanksgiving—one that lauded Jehovah as the one without equal. (1 Samuel 2:1-10) Like Hannah, we can draw comfort from prayer, confident that God answers all requests that harmonize with his will. When we pour out our heart to him, let us be “self-concerned no more,” for he will remove our burden or will enable us to bear it.—Psalm 55:22.
16. As illustrated in Jacob’s case, why should we pray when we are fearful or anxious?
16 If a situation causes fear, pain of heart, or anxiety, let us not fail to turn to God for comfort in prayer. (Psalm 55:1-4) Jacob was fearful when about to meet his estranged brother, Esau. Yet, Jacob prayed: “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Jehovah, you who are saying to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will deal well with you,’ I am unworthy of all the loving-kindnesses and of all the faithfulness that you have exercised toward your servant, for with but my staff I crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, I pray you, from my brother’s hand, from Esau’s hand, because I am afraid of him that he may come and certainly assault me, mother together with children. And you, you have said, ‘Unquestionably I shall deal well with you and I will constitute your seed like the grains of sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 32:9-12) Esau did not assault Jacob and his entourage. Thus Jehovah did “deal well” with Jacob on that occasion.
17. In keeping with Psalm 119:52, how may prayer bring us comfort when we are sorely tried?
17 During our supplications, we may be comforted by recalling things said in God’s Word. In the longest psalm—a beautiful prayer set to music—it may have been Prince Hezekiah who sang: “I have remembered your judicial decisions from time indefinite, O Jehovah, and I find comfort for myself.” (Psalm 119:52) In humble prayer when we are sorely tried, we may recall a Bible principle or law that can help us to pursue a course resulting in the comforting assurance that we are pleasing our heavenly Father.
Loyal Ones Persevere in Prayer
18. Why can it be said that ‘every loyal one will pray to God’?
18 All who are loyal to Jehovah God will “persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) In the 32nd Psalm 32, possibly composed after David sinned with Bath-sheba, he described his agony for failing to seek forgiveness and the relief that repentance and confession to God brought him. Then David sang: “On this account [because Jehovah’s pardon is available to truly repentant ones] every loyal one will pray to you at such a time only as you may be found.”—Psalm 32:6.
19. Why should we lift up loyal hands in prayer?
19 If we cherish our relationship with Jehovah God, we will pray for his mercy on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. In faith, we can approach the throne of undeserved kindness with freeness of speech to obtain mercy and timely help. (Hebrews 4:16) But there are so many reasons for prayer! Let us therefore “pray incessantly”—often with words of heartfelt praise and gratitude to God. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Day and night, let us lift up loyal hands in prayer.
How Would You Answer?
□ Of what benefit is it to give public prayer advance thought?
□ Why should we pray in a respectful and dignified manner?
□ What spirit should we display when praying?
□ When praying, why should we remember thanks and praise?
□ How does the Bible show that we can draw comfort from prayer?
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King Solomon manifested humility in his public prayer at the dedication of Jehovah’s temple
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Like Hannah, you can draw comfort from prayer