The NIV omits the word "therefore," which in the original Greek sentence connects the instructions to men with the preceding instructions about prayer. A connection is intended, as in fact Paul now lays down two principles to ensure the effectiveness of the church's prayer.
First, prayer that is acceptable must come from holy, purified hearts. The physical lifting of hands was important in the Jewish act of prayer. But the purity of the hands, originally a physical prerequisite to be fulfilled before one approached God (Ex 30:19-21), came to be symbolic of the condition of the heart. The early church understood such purity to be a condition of acceptable prayer (Jas 4:8). When we pray, our communication is with a holy God. He requires of us that we deal with our sins before making our approach.
Second, prayer that is acceptable must come from people in right relationship with one another. For this reason Paul adds the stipulation that our prayer be without anger or disputing. This principle too was widely known in the early church and goes back to Jesus' own teaching (Mt 5:23; 6:12, 14-15; Jas 4:3; 1 Pet 3:7). Simply put, difficulties in our relationship with God or in our relationship with fellow believers can hinder our prayer. The reference to arguments has the dissension caused by the false teachers in mind (1 Tim 1:6-7; 6:4-5; Tit 3:9-10). A divisive spirit had invaded the worship service, where unity was to be most evident. Interpersonal harmony is a resource of incalculable value for the prayer life of the church.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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