Origins of the Praying Hands
The act of one clasping their hands while praying is not at all exclusive to Christianity, in fact, nearly all major religions, including pagans, clasp their hands, in like fashion, while praying to their God(s). In this article we learn to pray as our Father intended.
The Jewish Talmud states that “Raba removed his cloak, clasped his hands and prayed,”, so we know at one time, even the Jewish people may have occasionally prayed with clasped hands; however, the written Torah does not command them to do so. Today, Jewish people do not pray with their hands clasped, in fact, they are unlike the entire world.
As you will see in subsequent sections within this article, nearly every major religion prays with their hands clasped, except for one -the Jewish people. In this article we will explore the pagan origins of the Praying Hands, starting in ancient Sumeria (ca. 888-885 BC) and ending in the Holy Bible where we discover how our Father intended us to pray.
Sumeria (ca. 888-885 BC)
In 8th century BC, the people of Sumeria (i.e. Modern Day Iraq) were worshiping the sun god Shamash. Here in the image below we have a stone relief, discovered in Iraq (ca. 1881 AD), of pagan priests performing religious worship of the sun god, Shamash.
Notice the man clasping his hands. Here we have possibly one of the earliest known records of hand clasping for religious purposes, roughly 800 years before the birth of Christ being used in the pagan worship of elemental deities, such as the sun and moon.
Therefore, if the Jews had ever learned to clasp their hands in prayer, then they are likely to have learned this from the Babylonians while they were in captivity during the time of Daniel, toward the end of the 5th century BC (i.e. 500 years before Christ). They likely stopped folding their hands as a result of Roman persecution in 1st century AD when they noticed that they too also clasped their hands in prayer to their elemental deities.
Today, there are literally hundreds of religious groupings, but our focus is on the foundational groups. Browse through the images below to see how Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Buddhists pray and notice how all of them clasp their hands, except for one group.
Interestingly, as we drift further away from the major groups of religion into paganism, we find a different kind of hand gesture -one that is all too familiar to the modern Christian, which is the arms out, palms up or out position -apparently a classic pagan stance.
So, our question is, out of all these groups, which one has got it right? Which one of these groups are praying the way the Father, the true creator of this world intended?
In Exodus 4:31, it reads, “and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” The Jewish bow is one of complete submission, where the hands are out, palms down, and the whole body is folded upon itself. Jacob made this pose to Esau in Genesis 33:3.
In 2 Chronicles 20:18, we read how all of Israel made this same pose, as we see above, in worship of God, “And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord.”
In Matthew 26:39, we read where Jesus made this same pose the night of his arrest, “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
In Philippians 2:9-11, it states, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In Revelation 5:14, it states, “And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.”
In summation, nowhere in the entire Holy Bible does it ever mention anyone clasping their hands to pray, so where did we get the idea that we as Christians should clasp our hands to pray? The obvious answer is from paganism, just as Christmas, Easter, and Halloween are all originally pagan holidays, we have incorporated paganism into our worship of God.