LAYING OF HANDS & CULTIVATING A HOUSE OF PRAYER
Pastor Dave Brown
The Bible records a variety of actions performed by various individuals. A search of Scripture for the action of “laying hands” provides at least 5 categories of purpose: 1) Violence, 2) Identification, 3) Prayer, 4) Blessing/Commissioning, 5) Miraculous Performance. The laying of hands is one of multiple actions in Scripture that communicate physical care and spiritual encouragement for the contemporary body of Christ. Numerous descriptive actions take place in the OT and NT early church practice, while only a few prescriptive actions are provided for today’s church. Specifically the practice of “laying hands”, is without any biblical command for believers or the church to implement the practice. There may be two close references relevant to the practice in the concept of prayer for healing (James 5:13-16) and also for commissioning leaders (see below Acts 6; Acts 13; 1&2Timothy). However, each case really are descriptive of what occurred in the early church than prescriptive commands for all believers and churches. Even the passage in James 5 praying over individuals is without specific mention of “laying hands”. In all, the specific practice may still be helpful for both physical care and spiritual oversight in the body.
Praying for healing is biblical and relevant for today. 1Corinthians 12:7-10 references that a local body of believers were given “gifts of healings” and “works of miracles”. In other words, the sign gifts went beyond Jesus and the Apostles and extended to the NT church. (cf. Acts 4:29-31; 1Corinthians 14:1; Galatians 3:5; yet also Matthew 24:24; 2Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4; Revelation 13:14, 16:14, 19:20). Yet, there were also instances where healing was not God’s will (2Cor 12:8-9; Gal 4:13-14; Php 2:26-27; 1Tim 5:23; 2Tim 4:20).
James 5 references 3 kinds of praying:
1) Praying for self: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (5:13)
2) Praying by elders: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up” (5:14-15)
3) Praying for each other: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” (5:16)
Supremely, the opportunity to pray for one another is a privilege and powerful means to seek God’s ways and work in each other’s life. In prayer, the specific spiritual aspect of “laying hands” provides a tangible reminder of God’s presence in our life and circumstances. Yet, the physical action of touching another person does not bring any greater effectiveness or power to prayer than without touch. There are no biblical examples of contrasting prayer’s effectiveness or success with or without touch. Overall, the physical aspect of touch can communicate personal care. However, we must also be cautious with individuals, especially of the opposite gender, that physical touch may have an alternate meaning that may not be well received. In all, the Bible emphasizes the role of faith in God’s hearing and responding to our prayers more important than human actions (Hebrews 11:6).
Further, the role of prayer in the Christian and the church is vital. God’s house is to be a place of prayer (Mark 11:17). The early church practiced prayer as vital to their life and mission (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:31; 13:1-3). Prayer-saturation is perhaps the greatest indicator for those who are living and ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Below are at least 10 ideas for the believer and body to cultivate prayer.
1) Be a prayer learner. Like any spiritual discipline, prayer can be learned. Some helpful resources: Paul Miller’s A Praying Life; Tim Keller’s Prayer; D.A. Carson’s A Call To Spiritual Reformation; Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word, John Piper’s A Hunger for God, Don Whitney’s Praying The Bible, and even Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker and Draw The Circle, among many others.
Some sermons and studies I’ve shared:
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2015/01/04/just-a-s-k-matthew-77-11/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2015/07/23/praying-with-jesus/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2015/09/02/why-is-prayer-so-hard-ephesians-610-20/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2015/06/02/his-hers-her-prayer-1samuel-1/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2015/06/09/his-hers-his-prayer-job/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2012/11/27/kingdom-prayer/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2012/02/06/healing-luke-431-44/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2011/02/22/the-source-prayer-fasting/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2011/11/24/prayer-encounters-john-17/
- – http://growinggodlygenerations.com/2010/08/23/rooted-in-the-gospel-prayer-mark/
- – https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2016/05/16/we-can-pray-james-513-20/
2) Be a person of prayer. Start with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Learn to use other Scriptures to guide your praying (Psalms, Paul’s prayers, etc.). .). Follow in the footsteps of Jesus, OT & NT saints, as well as multiple other Christian models to be men and women of personal prayer.
3) Praying partners. Select a friend to pray with, for, and in accountability with one another.
4) Praying groups. Make prayer a meaningful and significant element of an existing Bible study group, or the purpose for a newly created group.
5) Prayer walking. Praying on-site with insight.
6) Pastor prayer pals. People who pray for and during the worship service. Pray for the worship music to draw people to God. Pray for the sermon to speak God’s Word with clarity and conviction. Pray for the congregation to respond toward God with faith and obedience.
7) Corporate prayer venues. This goes beyond praying individuals and groups to the full church body coming together for the purpose of prayer. Generally speaking, these are times when God’s people are seeking God’s face and favor for spiritual awakening and revival. An environment of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication should characterize such solemn assemblies. These can be special events and/or every Sunday gathering of believers in worship (during a segment of the service and/or during the response time).
8) Prayer events. On occasion, specific prayer events may occur: national day of prayer, see you at the pole, mission prayer emphasis, persecuted church, etc.
9) Prayer ministering. People who pray for requests and needs both apart from those in need and together with those in need. Personal visitation among those who are hurting or needing hope takes an active and ongoing presence within the body life of the church.
10) Prayer adoptions. Individuals, groups, and the church body adopt persons or organizations to pray for them. This may include missionaries, mission organizations, community partners, neighborhoods, schools, nations, people groups, etc.
Overall, cultivating a house of prayer is not a program but must become a heart passion of God’s people. Each of the above ideas are starting points for Christians and churches to begin initiating for a movement of prayer within the spiritual DNA of a people.
5 Categories specifically for “laying hands”
- 1) VIOLENCE: Laying of hands is a figure of speech for seizure or doing harm to another.
1 Kings 20:6 (ESV) 6 Nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants and lay hands on whatever pleases you and take it away.’”
2 Kings 11:16 (ESV) 16 So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.
2 Chronicles 23:15 (ESV) 15 So they laid hands on her, and she went into the entrance of the horse gate of the king’s house, and they put her to death there.
Nehemiah 13:21 (ESV) 21 But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath.
Esther 2:21 (ESV) 21 In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.
Esther 3:6 (ESV) 6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Esther 6:2 (ESV) 2 And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.
Esther 8:7 (ESV) 7 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he intended to lay hands on the Jews.
Esther 9:2 (ESV) 2 The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples.
Job 41:8 (ESV) 8 Lay your hands on him; remember the battle—you will not do it again
Matthew 26:50 (ESV) 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
Mark 14:46 (ESV) 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him.
Luke 20:19 (ESV) 19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.
Luke 21:12 (ESV) 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.
Luke 22:53 (ESV) 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
John 7:44 (ESV) 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Acts 12:1 (ESV) 1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.
Acts 21:27 (ESV) 27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,
- 2) IDENTIFICATION: Laying hands is a symbolic way of identifying with another, frequently in a substitutionary manner.
Exodus 29:10, 15, 19 (ESV) 10 “Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull… 15 “Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram,… 19 “You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram,
Leviticus 4:15 (ESV) 15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be killed before the LORD.
Leviticus 8:14 (ESV) 14 Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering.
Leviticus 8:18 (ESV) 18 Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.
Leviticus 8:22 (ESV) 22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.
Leviticus 16:21 (ESV) 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.
Leviticus 24:14 (ESV) 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
Numbers 8:10 (ESV) 10 When you bring the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites,
Numbers 8:12 (ESV) 12 Then the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and you shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the LORD to make atonement for the Levites.
2 Chronicles 29:23 (ESV) 23 Then the goats for the sin offering were brought to the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them,
- 3) PRAYER: Laying hands is a meaningful and intimate manner of prayer.
Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
Mark 10:13, 16 (ESV) 13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them… 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Hebrews 6:2 (ESV) 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
- 4) BLESSING / COMMISSIONING: Laying hands is an expression of care and conveying the transfer of blessing or commissioning. The idea is that as God has authorized or blessed one, so too another. The laying of hands would be combined with exhortation, prayer, and on occasion anointing oil.
Genesis 48:14 (ESV) 14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn).
Numbers 27:23 (ESV) 23 and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses.
Deuteronomy 34:9 (ESV) 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
2 Kings 13:16 (ESV) 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands.
Acts 6:6 (ESV) 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
Acts 13:3 (ESV) 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
1 Timothy 4:14 (ESV) 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
1 Timothy 5:22 (ESV) 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
2 Timothy 1:6 (ESV) 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
- 5) MIRACLE (HEALING / SPIRITUAL GIFTING): The laying of hands was a means to transfer divine power for either miraculous healing or the gifting of the Holy Spirit.
2 Kings 4:34 (ESV) 34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm.
Mark 5:23 (ESV) 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”
Mark 6:5 (ESV) 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
Mark 8:23, 25 (ESV) 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?… 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Luke 4:40 (ESV) 40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.
Luke 13:13 (ESV) 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
Acts 8:17 (ESV) 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:18, 19 (ESV) 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 9:12 (ESV) 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
Acts 19:6 (ESV) 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Acts 28:8 (ESV) 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.
For what it’s worth…
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion
– rejected the practice in chapter XIX, Five Other Ceremonies, Falsely Termed Sacraments, #6