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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Alignment, Part 2 of 6: Hands to Heaven

In a previous post, we examined a little-known, but scripturally-verified, means of initiating dialogue with God: approaching Him in prayer, with the most profound posture possible...with your face to the dirt, and your heart elevated above your head.

There is an additional, accompanying prayer posture which is equally profound, equally as scripturally-based, and has symbolic meaning.
"However, it is the sad truth that if prophets and people are unreachable, the Lord generally does nothing for them. Having given them free agency, their Heavenly Father calls, persuades, and directs aright his children, but waits for their up reaching hands, their solemn prayers, their sincere, dedicated approach to Him. If they are heedless, they are left floundering in midnight's darkness when they could have the noonday sun." (Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, April 1977; emphasis mine)
Did you see that? President Kimball is instructing us to approach God with what? "Solemn prayers" and "up reaching hands."

Yet I don't think he's talking about any ordinary prayer. Not one of those half-asleep, thankful for the day, "please watch over us while I sleep" kind of prayers. Nope, not at all.
"Men do not know how to approach God, and none are willing to listen to  His teachings but the Latter-day Saints, and it is sometimes hard work  for them to do it...We have been gathered together from among the nations of the earth in order that God might have a people who would obey His law...and who had, as I said before, learned to approach the Lord in the proper way; for there is a medium opened out whereby men can approach God and learn His mind and will." (Pres. John Taylor, June 18, 1883, JD 24:200-201, emphasis mine)
These prayers -- which are sincere and delivered with upreaching hands -- exhibit a spiritual brightness that surpasses the noonday sun, ascend to the highest realms of a never-ending eternity, and produce results which rock the heavens with the spiritual equivalent of a 7.5 Richter scale quake.

"Hands to Heaven"


Both anciently and in these last days, the simple act of praying involved the divine gesture of lifting up one's hands to heaven. This signifies to God and His angels that you are ready at any time -- if the Lord has a word of revelation to communicate to you -- to receive it, no matter how it may come; whether by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or otherwise. (Elder Charles W. Penrose, in the Tabernacle, Provo, Saturday Morning, November 29th, 1879, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., 21:, p.48; http://jod.mrm.org/21/45)

It all started in humanity's first days, when Adam and Eve found themselves alone in the lone and dreary world. Without textbooks or guidebooks, webpages and wikipedias, they sought information the only way they knew how: with upraised hands.
"In Judaeo-Christian tradition, the first representative of the arrested sacrifice is Adam, who, as he was sacrificing on an altar, calling upon God with upraised hands, was accosted by Satan, who tried to sacrifice him, smiting him on the right side with a sharp stone." (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, p.217, emphasis mine)
Look at Facsimile No. 2, Figure 7, in the Book of Abraham.  There, and in the explanation of Figure 3, you'll find reference to "the grand Key-words of the Priesthood" which were "revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden." Adam and Eve had significant knowledge and accountability in Eden. They knew how to approach God the right way.

Obviously, the act of raising one's hands to call upon God was understood by the Egyptians:
"Its most impressive symbol is the Ka-sign itself, whose upraised arms signify the act of calling upon God, of praising him in the rising Sun, of receiving his protection, and of fusion with his being. "O Atum-Khoprer ... you set your arms about them [the first parents of the human race] as the arms of  a ka-symbol, that your essence might be in them. O Atum, set your arms about the King ... and about this Pyramid as the arms of a ka-symbol, that the King's essence may be in it, enduring forever" (Pyr. 600:1653 in Faulkner; cf. J. Zandee, ZA, 99:51f). "O Atum, place thy two hands behind N, that his ka may live forever! O Atum, make the dhn-gesture for N, protect him ..." (G. Lefebure, An. Serv., 20:217), where "the dhn is really the holding out of the hands accompanying the formulas" (loc. cit.). So also, "Maat ... has placed her arms around thee, thy Ka is in her ... and she has made thee to come into being with the Ka of all the gods" (Budge, O.M., I, 215). It is the embrace which transfers vital power, his Ka, from the god to the king (S. Bjerke, Numen, 12:215). The heavy collar and counter-weight worn by all the shrouded figures is the symbol of a divine embrace, whereby the soul of the god (e.g., Re, Atum) unites with that of the embraced one as a Ka (Budge, O.M., I, 102-104). An Amarna inscription reads, "Let my eye see him, my ear hear his voice, while his Ka is face-to-face with me (m bah.y) continually." And again, addressing Ptah: "Place me before thee, with thy Ka facing me and mine eyes beholding thy beauty" (Otto, Or., 17:452). By the same means the dead becomes reunited with his own Ka, thus achieving eternal life: "O King, the arm of your Ka is in front of you! O King, the arm of your Ka is behind you! O King, the foot of your Ka is in front of you! O King, the foot of your Ka is behind you!" (Pyr. 25:18; Otto, p. 450)." (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, p. 244) 
"F. Preisigke, studying the same gesture among the Egyptians (it is none  other than the famous 'Ka' gesture), notes that it represents submission  (the 'hands up' position of one surrendering on the battlefield) while at the same time, calling the attention of heaven to an offering one has brought in supplication. He also points out that the early Christians used the same gesture in anticipation of a visitation from heaven, to which they added the idea of the upraised arms of the Savior on the cross...Enoch was another who as he prayed 'stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity' and to comfort him God sent him the vision of Noah's salvation." (Hugh Nibley, "The Early Christian  Prayer Circle" in Mormonism and Early Christianity, 1987, p. 59)
That was only the beginning. Take a look at these instances (emphasis is mine):
  • "And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; [and] the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth [is] the LORD'S." (Exodus 9:29)
  • "And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth." (Exodus 9:33)
  • "And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God," (Ezra 9:5)
  • "And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." (Daniel 12:7)
  • "Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name." (Psalms 63:4)
  • "Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee." (Psalms 88:9)
  • "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD." (Psalms 134:2)
  • "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul [thirsteth] after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah." (Psalms 143:6)
  • "And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:" (1 Kings 8:22)
  • "What prayer and supplication soever be [made] by any man, [or] by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:" (1 Kings 8:38)
  • "And it was [so], that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven." (1 Kings 8:54)
  • "And he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands: For Solomon had made a brasen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven, And said, O LORD God of Israel, [there is] no God like thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and [shewest] mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts:" (2 Chronicles 6:12, 13, 14)
  • "[Then] what prayer [or] what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house:" (2 Chronicles 6:29)
  • "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;" (Hebrews 12:12)
  • "That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High." (D&C 88:120)
  • "And when any shall come in after him, let the teacher arise, and, with uplifted hands to heaven, yea, even directly, salute his brother or brethren with these words:" (D&C 88:132)
  • "And he that cometh in and is faithful before me, and is a brother, or if they be brethren, they shall salute the president or teacher with uplifted hands to heaven, with this same prayer and covenant, or by saying Amen, in token of the same." (D&C 88:135)
  • "That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High" (D&C 109:9)
  • "And that all their salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with holy hands, uplifted to the Most High;" (D&C 109:19)
  • "Once Joseph gave notice to the school for all to get up before sunrise, then wash themselves and put on clean clothing and be at the school by sunrise, as it would be a day of revelation and vision. They opened with prayer. Joseph then gave instruction to prepare their minds. He told them to kneel and pray with uplifted hands. Brother Coltrin then gave an account of the appearance of the Father and Son as given in the Minutes of the 3rd inst. Jesus was clothed in modern clothing, apparently of grey cloth." (Minutes of the Salt Lake School of the Prophets; Oct. 11, 1883, p. 69.) 
  • "At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, the school being organized on the 23rd of January, 1833, when we were all together, Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling, with our hands uplifted each one praying in silence, no one whispered above his breath, a personage walked through the room from East to West, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. He (Brother Coltrin) experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him." (Ibid. pp.58-60.)
With all those scriptural and historical references regarding the importance of praying with upraised hands, you may be wondering to yourself why you haven't been doing it. Um....yeah.

Now, while a knowledge of the importance of approaching God with upraised hands is important, what is just as (if not more) important (in my opinion) is doing it the right way.

And that "proper way" (Pres. Taylor's words) involves properly preparing to approach God before you've raised your hands.

Stele with hands
upraised in prayer
and worship to a
representation
of the moon,
found at Hazor.
Clean Hands and Pure Heart

"If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him" (Job 11:13)
Those who approach God with in this manner display their palms in full visibility to God, declaring that they have "clean hands and a pure heart." In other words, to properly approach God, you must spiritually prepare yourself ahead of time by putting into effect the counsel found in Psalms 24:3-5:
"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; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."
"I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?" (Alma 5:19)
So, what do "clean hands" and a "pure heart" represent?
  • A quick scan through the scriptures indicates over 150 references which provide a direct correlation between ones hands and the works, the actions, they perform while in mortality (see here). 
  • Another 31 scriptures tie a "pure heart" with motives like "faith," "charity," peace," as well as a lack of vanity, deceitfulness, guile and spiritual filthiness (here). 
This spiritual preparation is essential for one to know Jehovah personally. Otherwise, we have not done what it takes to please the Lord:
"Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not." (Matthew 25:10-11 JST; emphasis mine)
Isaiah 1:15 amplifies the need for this spiritual preparation, where God chastises people for spreading their hands in prayer while their hands are "full of blood":
"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
As Isaiah scholar Avraham Gileadi, PhD notes,
"While spreading forth the hands and praying at length are two legitimate forms of prayer, they can't benefit an unrepentant people guilty of gross crimes. The word 'blood' not only implies extreme injustice (Isaiah 26:21; 59:3, 7), it encapsulates injustices in general. Although 'hands filled with blood' alludes to murder and abortion, it further epitomizes societal failings and abuses whose ripple effects include suicides to which an unrighteous people contribute. In short, the worship of Jehovah by those whose hearts aren't broken, whose spirits aren't contrite (Psalm 51:16-17), Jehovah can't countenance." (http://www.isaiahexplained.com/1#commentary; emphasis mine).
So, how does one clearly demonstrate a broken heart, faith, charity and peace? Again, Isaiah explains:
"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:16-17; or for a better translation, go here).
It's clear: Repent. Discard your evil, unclean habits. Partake of Christ's atoning sacrifice, which will make you clean. Then demonstrate your change of heart by seeking out and maximizing opportunities to serve others, and to positively intervene in their lives (please click here for more information on the true, non-scary, non-Satan-distorted nature of repentance).

Once you've done that, there may come a day that the Spirit will prompt you to pray with upraised hands. In my opinion, that's a terrific accomplishment!

It may also be an indication that you're ready for some "next steps." Those are coming up next.