What does it mean to fold our hands in prayer?
At the beginning of this year I re-decorated my formal living room into a more comfortable area for me to pray and write and read. As part of this redecorating process I got a couple of new house plants - one of which is a prayer plant.
I have to admit that I bought it because of its name only. It seems the leaves of the plant roll inwards at night and resemble the look of praying hands. Why would I not want one of these in my prayer space?
It’s beautiful and made me wonder where the tradition of folding our hands in prayer came from? It’s not in the Bible. There is no reason to think that this is the way one must pray. There are two theories about why we pray this way.
- There is evidence that the Jewish Babylonian sage, Rabba, used to pray with his hands folded and so it became a Jewish practice that early Christians adopted.
- Folded hands is symbolic of the Roman practice symbolizing submission. Shackling a prisoners hands symbolized submission and a prisoner could avoid immediate death by joining their hands together in surrender.
In either case the posture puts us in an attitude of surrender. It reflects to God that we are His, that we surrender to His will, that we let go of what is and turn toward what could be as we ask for the light of God to surround us.
I don’t often pray this way but I find myself doing it more often in this room. My plant is both a reminder of new life and new growth that happens when I surrender to God and let go of the things in this world that keep me from living in God’s love.
May we seek to let go of the pieces of this world that don’t help us to grow. And may our practice of surrender allow us to feel the loving presence of God surrounding us always.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6 NRSV
Until Everyone Hears,