"I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer," (1 Tim 2:8).
The theme of raising hands in prayer or worship is repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments. I did hear one young man use this particular verse to argue that women were not to raise their hands at all, but that just shows you can make scripture say anything you want it to if you take verses out of context.
Prayer on the Battlefield
Probably the most familiar passage about hands being raised in prayer is Ex 17:8-13. This is the account of Joshua's defeat of the Amalekites as Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battlefield. When he held up his hands the Israelites were winning; when he grew tired and lowered his arms the battle turned against them.
If you've ever tried standing for any length of time with your arms in the air you will realise how quickly they begin to tire and ache. There was a simple and practical solution to this problem. Two men, Aaron and Hur, took the responsibility of holding up Moses' weary arms until the battle was won.
The account is often used by preachers as an illustration of the importance of both prayer and action in working to achieve God's will. It's a valid use of the passage, but there is an additional insight here which could transform the effectiveness of the prayer of the church.
We are all supposed to pray for ourselves, for friends and family, for the extension of God's kingdom. But you can't be in fellowship with other believers for long without realising that some Christians seem to have a particular passion for praying for others. They're easy to spot because they are the ones who take out notebooks the minute someone starts to mention needs for prayer.
These gifted intercessors can spend hours in prayer asking the Lord to intervene in all kinds of situations from the personal to the international. Most of what they do is in the secret place so the rest of the fellowship will probably be unaware of the amount of time such people give to prayer, nor will they appreciate the physical and spiritual toll such a ministry can take on the individual intercessor.
It's also true that intercession is one of the most underrated ministries within the church. The work of the intercessor may well be the crucial difference between success or failure of a venture the church is undertaking; the effectiveness of the preacher or worship leader may be significantly enhanced as a result of intercession; the number and severity of spiritual attacks on church members can be influenced by the gifted pray-ers.
Several times in the past year I have heard gifted intercessors talk about becoming weary and finding it more difficult to pray than they used to. Like Moses, they have found it impossible to maintain their part of the battle because they haven't had the support they need. Intercessors are at the sharp end of the battle, on the spiritual front line, and they need support, care and encouragement.
Pastors particularly have a responsibility to support the intercessors of the church. Just like Aaron the priest, Moses' brother, they have a role to play in enabling the pray-ers to keep praying. It's all too easy to think that the people who pray effectively are in less need of pastoral care than those whose spiritual or personal life appears less stable. But intercessors, by the very nature of their ministry, are vulnerable too.
A Need For Hur's
The other man assisting Moses was Hur. We know very little about him though Jewish tradition suggests he was Miriam's husband. He did not have the same kind of prominent role in the community as Moses or Aaron. But he was on that hill with them supporting Moses through his prayer vigil.
The intercessors in our churches need people like Hur. They need friends and companions who will encourage them whilst both praying with and for them. Leaving the intercessors to themselves and letting them just get on with their ministry will lead to a weak and ineffective church. When the intercessors are being encouraged and prayed for they will become more effective and the entire ministry of the church will become more dynamic.
Prayer College Assignment
Who will pray for the pray-ers? Our intercessors need prayer. Will you be a Hur? If you don't already know who are the gifted intercessors in your church, find out who they are. Then start praying for them, that the Lord will strengthen and encourage them, that He will protect them and that their ministry will be effective.
If you are a weary intercessor make sure your pastor knows so that they can support you. Also look out for a Hur, an "ordinary" member of the congregation, who can be an understanding friend to you.