I will therefore that men pray everywhere
In this declaration of the apostle's will concerning prayer, he only takes notice of "men"; not but that it is both the duty and privilege of women, as well as men, to pray in their houses and closets; but because he is speaking of public prayer in the church, which only belongs to men, he speaks only of them; and his will is, that prayer should be performed by them everywhere, or in any place, in any part of the world where they lived. Now was the prophecy in ( Malachi 1:11 ) fulfilled, and now was the time come our Lord refers to, ( John 4:21 ) . This seems to be said in opposition to a Jewish notion, that the temple at Jerusalem was the only place for prayer, and that prayer made elsewhere ought to be directed towards that. The Jews say F2, that
``there is no way for the prayer of the nations of the world to ascend, seeing the gates of heaven are only opened in the land of Israel.--And again, that the prayers without the land have no way to go up before the Lord, but the Israelites send them without the land opposite Jerusalem; and when they come to Jerusalem, from thence they remove and ascend above.--No prayer ascends above from that place in which it is made, till it come to the land of Israel, and from thence to Jerusalem, and from thence to the sanctuary, and then it ascends above.''They have also many rules concerning places of private prayer, as that care should be taken that it be not in a place where there is any filth; or any bad scent F3.
Lifting up holy hands;
lifting up of hands was a prayer gesture among the Heathens F4, and so it was among the Jews F5. R. Simeon lift up his hands in prayer to the blessed God, and prayed his prayer. Yea, they F6 say,
``it is forbidden a man to lift up his hands above, except in prayer, and in blessings to his Lord, and supplications, as it is said, ( Genesis 14:22 ) which is interpreted of lifting up of hands in prayer.''And this was an emblem of the elevation of the heart in prayer to God, without which the former would be of little avail. It is an observation of the Jews F7, we have found prayer without lifting up of hands, but we never found lifting up of hands without prayer. And these hands must be holy and pure; there must be purity of heart, and cleanness of hands, or a freedom from any governing sin, which renders prayer unacceptable unto God; see ( Isaiah 1:15 Isaiah 1:16 ) . The apostle alludes to a custom of the Jews, who always used to wash their hands before prayer;
``Then Holofernes commanded his guard that they should not stay her: thus she abode in the camp three days, and went out in the night into the valley of Bethulia, and washed herself in a fountain of water by the camp. And when she came out, she besought the Lord God of Israel to direct her way to the raising up of the children of her people.'' (Judith 12:7,8)So it is said F8 of the Septuagint interpreters, that after the Jewish manner they washed their hands and prayed. The account Maimonides gives F9, is this:
``cleanness of hands, how is it done? a man must wash his hands up to the elbow, and after that pray; if a man is on a journey, and the time of prayer is come, and he has no water, if there is between him and water four miles, which are eight thousand cubits, he may go to the place of water, and wash, and after that pray. If there is between him more than that, he may rub his hands, and pray. But if the place of water is behind him, he is not obliged to go back but a mile; but if he has passed from the water more than that, he is not obliged to return, but he rubs his hands and prays; they do not make clean for prayer but the hands only, in the rest of prayers, except the morning prayer; but before the morning prayer a man washes his face, his hands and feet, and after that prays.''But, alas! what does all this washing signify? Unless, as Philo the Jew F11, expresses it, a man lifts up pure, and, as one may say, virgin hands, to heaven, and so prays.
Without wrath and doubting;
or reasoning, or disputation in a contentious way: the former of these, some think, has reference to "murmuring", as the Ethiopic version renders it, impatience and complaint against God in prayer, and the other to doubt and diffidence about being heard, and having the petitions answered; for prayer ought to be with praise to God, and faith in him: or rather "wrath" may intend an angry and unforgiving temper towards men, with whom prayer is made, which is very unbecoming; see ( Matthew 5:23 Matthew 5:24 ) ( 6:10 ) ( 1 Peter 3:7 ) and both that and doubting, or disputation, may have regard to those heats and contentions that were between the Jews and Gentiles, which the apostle would have laid aside, and they join together in prayer, and in other parts of public worship, in love and peace. Maimonides F12 says,
``men may not stand praying, either with laughter, or with levity, nor with confabulation, "nor with contention, nor with anger", but with the words of the law.''
And it is a saving of R. Chanina,
``in a day of "wrath", a man may not pray F13.''