Praying Hands: The Origin


The are certain universal symbols that generally no matter what culture, there is a general understanding of what that symbol or visual represents.

Let’s take the visual picture or symbol of two hands placed together. Without question, this is a universal symbol for PRAYER.

I came across an article from the Daily Heller, a subscription-based E-blast from Print Magazine, in which the background on this symbol is not what you would think it was. It actually has no religious origin.

One symbol that we all know, yet doubtless rarely think about because it is so invisibly common, is the ubiquitous gesture of prayer. Where did the joining of hands come from? It might surprise you to learn that it does not have a religious origin. It is not signified in the Bible. And it was not even part of the Christian tradition until the 9th century. In Hebrew and Christian custom, spreading of arms and hands toward the heavens was the prevailing sign of devotion.

In The People’s Almanac, David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace wrote that the joining of hands “leads back to men’s early desire to subjugate each other and developed out of the shackling of hands of prisoners! Though the handcuffs eventually disappeared, the joining of hands remained as a symbol of man’s servitude and submission and his inability (or even lack of inclination) to grasp a weapon.” They added that Christianity adopted “the gesture representing shackled hands as a sign of man’s total obedience to divine power.”