Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or dissension.
I. PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLIES IS TO BE CONDUCTED BY MEN. "I wish then that prayer be made in every place by men."
1. It is for men to manage and direct the public services of the Church; it is for women to take a more quiet though not less real place in worship. As woman had been emancipated by the gospel - for there were no longer "male and female" in Christ - and as she had taken such a prominent place in ministering to Christ, the apostles, and the saints, there may have been a disposition on the part of female converts to assert themselves actively in the public life of the Church at Ephesus and elsewhere. The apostle expresses not a mere wish or desire, but, what is equivalent to a solemn command, that the men alone should be responsible for the conduct of the public services. The injunction does not affect the right or duty of women to conduct prayer in private life or in meetings of their own sex.
2. Prayer is to be made in every place. This rule is to obtain in all public assemblies of the saints, wherever held. There is, perhaps, a recollection of our Lord's words that there is to be no restriction of prayer to one holy place (John 4:21).
II. THE SPIRIT AND MANNER IN WHICH PUBLIC PRAYER IS TO BE CONDUCTED. "Lifting up holy hands without wrath or disputing."
1. The posture must be reverent. It was customary for the Jews to pray with uplifted hands. It was likewise the general attitude adopted by the early Christians. It was the attitude significant
(1) of the elevation of the heart to God;
(2) of the expectation of an answer from heaven.
2. The uplifted hands must be holy. They must be hands unstained by vice. "Cleanse your hands, purify your hearts" (James 4:8). The hands must be free from any sin that would render prayer unacceptable to God. "Wash you, make you clean" (Isaiah 1:16).
3. Prayer should be free from all passionate feeling. "Without wrath and disputing." Perhaps arising from religious altercation or debate. Prayer belongs to the peaceful heart. Faith and love are its two sustaining principles, and exclude the idea of passion against our fellow-men. - T.C.
Pray everywhere.I. Let us consider THE SUBJECT OF ATTENTION. This is prayer. And what is prayer? Prayer is the breathing of desire towards God. Words are not essential to it. As words may be used without the heart, so the heart may be engaged where words are wanting. Words are not always necessary to inform a fellow-creature, and they are never necessary to inform God, who "searcheth the heart," and knoweth what is in the mind. What interesting looks will the hunger of the beggar at the door display! How is it in the family? You have several children: the first can come and ask for what he wants in proper language, and the second can only ask in broken terms, but here is a third who cannot speak at all: but he can point, he can look, and stretch out his little hand; he can cry, and shall he plead in vain? "No! no!" says the mother, refuse him? his dimpled cheeks, his speaking .eye, his big round tears, plead for him. Refuse him? Further, we notice the kinds of prayer. Prayer may be considered as public. There is also domestic prayer, by which we mean the prayer that is offered every morning and every evening at the family altar. Mr. Henry observes, "A house without this has no roof." Prayer may be considered as private. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father which seeth in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Prayer may be considered as ejaculatory, a darting up of the mind to God, as the word signifies. This may be done at any time, and under any circumstance. Nehemiah was the king's cup-bearer, and while he was in the room attending upon his office, he prayed to the God of heaven.
II. Observe THE INJUNCTION. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
III. WHERE IT IS TO BE OFFERED. "Everywhere." Now, this is opposed to restriction or respect. Let us see what we can make of it in either of these views. You remember the Assyrians thought that the God of Israel was the God of the hills, and not of the valleys. And when Balaam was baffled in one of his endeavours to curse Israel, he went to another place to see if he could be more prosperous, and to try if he could curse them from thence. You see how the devotions of the heathens always depended upon times, and places, or pilgrimages. Among the Jews, who were for a time under a Theocracy, God chose a place where He might reside, and where were the symbols of His presence, and there all the males resorted thrice in the year; but even then God said to Moses, "In all places where I record My name, I will come unto thee and bless thee." What think you of those sons and daughters of superstition and bigotry who would confine God to particular places and stations? Where was Jacob when he said, "This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven"? Where did Paul take leave of his friends? "He kneeled down on the seashore." Where did the Saviour pray? "He went out into a private place," "He went into a desert place," "He went up into a mountain to pray." When Jones, a famous Welsh preacher, was commanded to appear before the Bishop of St. David's, the bishop said to him, "I must insist upon it that you never preach upon unconsecrated ground." "My lord," said he, " I never do; I never did; for 'the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof'; and when Immanuel came down to set His foot upon our earth, the whole was sanctified by it." God is no more a respecter of places than of persons. This should also encourage you when you are under disadvantageous circumstances. For instance, if you are called to assemble in a very poor place, or in a very small place, He Himself hath said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name" —let it be where it will — "there am I in the midst of them." But now, further, as men may pray everywhere, so they ought to pray everywhere. The injunction not only allows, but enjoins, universal prayer. The duty is more opposed to neglect than even restriction. Men should pray everywhere, because they may die everywhere. They have died in all places: they have died in a bath, they have died in a tavern, they have died upon the road, they have died in the temple of God. You are therefore to pray everywhere. But what are we to say of those who, instead of praying "everywhere," pray nowhere?
IV. Let us notice HOW THIS DUTY IS TO BE DISCHARGED. It is to be offered up under three attributes.
1. The first implies purity, "lifting up holy hands." Solomon says, "The prayer of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." David says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." You have heard the Dutch proverb, "Sinning will make a man leave off praying, or praying will make a man leave off sinning." These will not do well together, therefore they must be separated. It would be better for a man to neglect his benefactor than to call at his house to spit in his face, or to smite him on the cheek. James says, "Can a fountain bring forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?"
2. The second attribute is kindness. This is expressed by the opposite extreme. "Without wrath." There are those whose lives may be far from egregious vices, but whose tempers do not partake of the meekness and gentleness of Christ; they bring their rancorous spirit into their worship, and think to appease the anger of God for their uncharitableness by offering it up on the altar of devotion. "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
3. The third attribute is confidence. This is expressed negatively: "I will that men pray everywhere," not only "without wrath," but "without doubting." Our Lord says in the Gospel by St. Matthew, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive." This confidence includes a persuasion in the lawfulness of the things we pray for. Then it takes in confidence in the power of God. "Believe ye that I am able to do this"? This confidence takes in the disposition of God towards you; you are not only to "believe that He is," but that "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Especially you must have confidence in the mediation of Christ.
(W. Jay.)I. THE EMPLOYMENT WHICH IS HERE COMMENDED.
1. That prayer must be addressed exclusively to God. This grand truth is introduced, and ought to be solemnly and uniformly affirmed, in direct contradiction to those mistaken propensities and systems by which men have addressed invocations to idols — mere imaginary beings, or beings really existing but created and inferior.
2. Prayer must be offered to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an established and a cardinal principle in all revealed religion that man as a guilty sinner can have no access to God but through a Mediator — One whose merits, as having offered a sacrifice for sin, must be alleged as constituting a satisfactory ground for favour and acceptance.
3. Prayer offered to God through the Lord Jesus Christ must be presented by all mankind. The statement of our text is, that men are to " pray everywhere"; wherever men exist, men are to pray. The universal call to prayer arises from the fact that men are universally in precisely the same relationship to God. They are everywhere characterized by the same guilt, the same wants, the same responsibility.
II. THE SPIRIT WITH WHICH THIS EMPLOYMENT IS TO BE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED. "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
1. First the apostle recommends importunity. Importunity is symbolized by the figure of the "lifting up of hands" — an attitude which was practised in prayer in ancient times, as externally indicating the place from whence man expected blessing, even heaven the dwelling-place of God, and the spirit with which they desired to receive blessing, laying hold (as it were) by eagerness and by strength of what they desired to receive from Him. Who, for example, can pray for pardon, for sanctification, for knowledge, for love, for protection, for comfort, for victory over death and hell, and for the final enjoyment of a happy immortality in heaven — without importunity? It is palpable that coldness to a rightly regulated mind must be utterly and finally impracticable.
2. But again; the expressions of the apostle, when they recommend importunity, also recommend purity. "Lifting up holy hands" — these expressions, or the epithets with which the expressions we have noticed already are connected, referring to a custom, frequent or universal among the Jews as well as other Oriental nations, of carefully washing the hands before they engaged in the performance of any act of devotion, this being intended to be the sign and symbol of moral rectitude and of the preparation of the heart. Hence it is that in the Old Testament Scriptures you find a connection established between the cleanness of the hands and the purification or holiness of the heart. For instance, in the Book of Job we have this statement — "The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger" — there being of course an identification between the two expressions. In the twenty-fourth Psalm David inquires thus — "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." This being the import of the expression, we might refer it to the state, which must be rendered judicially pure or holy by the imputation of Christ's righteousness, dependence on whom we have already advocated and required; but we must especially regard it as referring to the heart, which must undergo the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, so as to be morally conformed to the character and the law of God. In all ages, God demands to be worshipped in "the beauties of holiness."
3. The apostle also recommends benevolence. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath." The expression "wrath" of course must be regarded as having respect to other men; we are to be careful against indulging towards them resentment or dislike, arising from whatever source, and we are to cultivate towards them the spirit of benevolence and of good-will, these prompting on their behalf intercession for their interests before the throne and in the presence of God. The apostle well knew that there is a great disposition to the indulgence of selfishness in prayer; and hence it was that he bore in the present instance his solemn protest against it.
4. The apostle at the same time recommends faith. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting"; the term "doubting" is placed as the converse of faith. Faith in regard to the exercise of prayer, must not merely have respect to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Mediator through whom prayer is to be presented, but must have respect to the entire testimony of God regarding prayer — in its mode, matter, and results. There may perhaps be stated certain limitations to the exercise of faith, as connected with the employment of prayer. Those limitations may justly have respect to the desires we are accustomed to present before the Divine footstool, for the impartation of what we deem temporal blessings.
III. THE REASONS BY WHICH THIS EMPLOYMENT IN THIS SPIRIT MAY ESPECIALLY BE ENFORCED.
1. First, this employment in this spirit is directly commanded by God.
2. Again; this employment in this spirit is connected with numerous and invaluable blessings. Is it not associated with blessing to ourselves, and have we not been distinctly informed that the great instrument of the continuance of spiritual blessings to us, when converted by Divine grace, has been the agency of prayer?
3. And then it must be observed that the neglect of this employment in this spirit is attended and succeeded by numerous and by fatal evils. No man is a converted man who does not pray. No man can be a happy man who does not pray. No man can possess the slightest indication of the spiritual favour of God who does not pray.
(A. Vinet, D. D.)
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