Our hands folded in prayer


When did Christians first start to fold their hands when praying? I had someone ask me this question during a discussion on how to tell when someone is praying in church. I don’t have a clue what the answer is.


My understanding is that this began as a symbolic gesture of warriors and knights to show restraint of the sword hand. Of course that is a legend but some legends are true. I dont think anyone knows for sure today. I thought this one might have some merit though as it harkens back to pacifistic ways of the early Church.


Hmmm… I like that answer; very interesting. Thanks!


I have no real clue, but a guess. as with much prayer practice I think it comes from the monastic life, when religious were taught custody of the eyes, the hand, the tongue as discipline and as means of resisting temptation. as we tell school children to fold their hands on the desk to avoid making mischief, making noise, disturbing others etc. attention to details of posture and comportment make it easier to maintain silence of body and mind, to be receptive and attentive.

altar servers are usually trained (or should be) what to do with the hands when they are not actually doing anything. for instance the left hand is held against the breast while the right hand is holding something. I think this is for the same reason. When we pay attention and deliberately hold the hands still, they cannot get into mischief.


Folding the hands in prayer or clasping them together (both being gestures of supplication) were ancient Jewish prayer practices which long predate Christianity. They fell out of favor with Jews, after they began to associate it with Christian prayer practices.


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