Fulton County Gospel News

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Back to Biblical Prayer, Part 2

By Lee Moses

Back to Public Prayers Led by Holy Men

Women leading in worship is no longer all that novel an idea.  Reports of women leading in worship, and in other areas in the Lord’s church, began to surface in the 1970’s. Of course, manmade denominations led the way in this departure from Scripture. Episcopalian professor and “bishop” Charles Ellicott referred to female leadership in worship as being advocated by “some of the unnatural and unscriptural theories of modern times”—and that was in 1857! Fast forward to our modern times, to an “elder” of an  institution claiming to be a “Church of Christ.” This man asserts that the aforementioned institution “is poised to enter some very challenging times as God’s Spirit leads us in new ministries and as we implement expanded roles for women in public worship.  We will be enriched, as women of faith are encouraged to use their God-given gifts in ministry in this church family in new ways.” Such reasoning is becoming more and more common, and more and more professed “churches of Christ” are placing women as prayer leaders and in other positions of leadership. Such reasoning can sound convincing, as following the Spirit, being enriched, and using God-given gifts for God are all desirable.

“Nevertheless, what saith the Scripture?”  As Paul addressed the need for order in worship assemblies, he said, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Corinthians 14:34). This prohibition was given in the context of leading in worship, of speaking before the congregation—this does not prohibit a woman from participating in congregational singing. However, when it comes to speaking before the assembly, a woman is effectively told to say nothing. This would clearly exclude a woman from leading a public prayer.

The apostle Paul provided inspired instructions for the leading of public prayer:

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).
This verse resumes Paul’s discussion on public prayer that he began in verses 1-2. The phrase “every where” (“in every place,” American Standard Version) means “in every place where the church assembles.” The Jews had used the expression to mean “meeting place” or “place of prayer,” and the Holy Spirit continued to use it to refer to places of assembling for worship (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:8).[1] In verses 1-2, Paul had discussed content of public prayers; here he discusses who should lead public prayers. And he limits the leadership of public prayers to men; that is, to adult males. While the term “men” can be used in a sense inclusive of both males and females, the word used here does not have that inclusive sense. When the inclusive sense of “men” is desired, the Greek anthropos is normally used (compare with Matthew 7:12; Luke 2:15; 1 Timothy 2:4-5). Here in 1 Timothy 2:8, the Holy Spirit chose the Greek word aner (pronounced ah-NAIR), which refers to males

The basic meaning of this word is “a male person,” and is used to show contrast to a woman.[2] Even in rare cases when women are included in the meaning, the word is chosen for a reason. The word appears 214 times in the New Testament, and there are only two clear occasions in which the term includes females. One is Romans 4:8, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (emphasis LM). Obviously, the blessing of forgiveness here spoken of is not limited to males. But why did Paul use this word? Paul used this word because he was quoting directly from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Psalm 32:2, KJV), and in that translation aner was used. So why did the translators use the word aner? The Greek of the time would not have allowed aner to be used inclusively of females.[3] In all likelihood, aner was chosen because the translators understood this “man” specifically as David, who wrote the 32nd psalm about his own forgiveness.

Another use of aner that includes women is James 1:20, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (emphasis LM). This does not make selfish human anger acceptable when a woman is guilty of it; the verse correctly applies to women just as to men. However, again, there is likely a logical reason why aner was chosen rather than the more generic anthropos, perhaps to portray the impetuous, violent anger more common to the male of the species. Thayer describes this usage of aner, “when persons of either sex are included, but named after the more important”; that is, when males are chiefly under consideration.[4]

So because aner sometimes includes women, it must include women in 1 Timothy 2:8, right? Hardly. (1) As seen previously, the term almost always refers only to males, and when females are included, males are still chiefly under consideration. (2) The context must demand including women; however, the context of 1 Timothy 2:8 will not allow including women. The following verse discusses “women” using the opposite term of aner (gune). When these terms are used together in the same context, they are always used in distinction from one another (1 Timothy 2:12; 3:2, 12; 5:9; Titus 1:6; 2:5).[5] (3) The original language includes the article (“the”), further stressing the distinction between what the men are told to do, and what the women are told to do. As the New King James Version renders the passage,

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (1 Timothy 2:8-10, emphases LM).
When Paul said, “I will…” (“I desire,” NKJV), he was not merely offering his personal view on the matter. He said, “I will therefore”; that is, based on the apostolic authority affirmed for him in verse 7. As he proclaimed a few verses following his prohibition against women speaking in the worship assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34), “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (verse 37).
Paul does not allow for just any man to lead prayer. He added that prayer leaders needed to be lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”  Some have tried to misuse this passage to encourage swaying with hands in the air while praying. However, since this direction is given to the men, women would be excluded from the practice. And this passage was not intended to teach prayer posture—“The emphasis is upon holiness, not the position of the hands.”[6] Paul does not allow for just any man to lead prayer, but one whose hands can be described as holy—a faithful Christian man. As Job lamented his sorry state, he added, “Not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17).  Proverbs 28:9 warns, “”He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). Some congregations will use unfaithful men to lead public prayers—men who regularly forsake the assembly, men publicly known for immorality—in an alleged effort to encourage them to faithfulness. But how could any congregation dare to do this, knowing that such will be an abomination to the Lord, and will turn His face against them? Some “Christian” colleges have even used members of denominations to lead prayers. A member of a denomination does not have Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23, 25)—a willful approach to the throne of God without Christ is beyond presumptuous (John 14:6, 14; Hebrews 4:14-16). The man leading prayers does not have to be sinlessly perfect, but he must stand as a forgiven child of God, pursuing “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

There may be women just as holy as, and more capable of leading prayer than, any man in the congregation. However, if we are going to get back to Biblical prayer, we must get back to public prayers led by holy men.


[1] C.K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), p. 54.

[2] Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, aner, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 79; Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, aner, in Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, Baker's Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), BibleWorks, v.8.

[3] Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, aner, in An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1889), BibleWorks, v.8.

[4] Joseph Thayer, aner, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (n.p.: n.p., 1889), BibleWorks, v.8.

[5] George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), p. 128.

[6] Peter Misselbrook, Notes on the Greek New Testament, Available



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