Someone has to lead when Christians assemble to worship. Whether one is starting out assisting at the Lord's table, or using their well-seasoned abilities in song leading or public exhortation, it is a great honor to be called upon to lead the Lord's church in a certain aspect of the public worship service. However, this role is not for just anyone. Paul instructed Timothy, "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Tim. 2:8). Kept in context, I believe Paul is telling Timothy just exactly who the church can use to lead them in their worship. Consider the following points.
1. Men. The role and responsibility of leadership in the church (including leading in the worship) has been given to men. Paul went on to tell Timothy, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" ("remain quiet" - NASB, 1 Tim. 2:12). In the worship of the church, women are commanded to be submissive participants, not authoritative leaders.
This should not surprise anyone who is familiar with the Old Testament. Before the Law of Moses, God dealt with mankind through the Patriarchs. The men were the ones who would offer up sacrifices and receive God's revelation. Under the Law of Moses, men from the tribe of Levi served as priests, ministering before God on behalf of the nation of Israel. In the Lord's church, we find the same type of role again given to men.
2. Holy Men. Men must take the lead, but not just any man will do. He must be a man with "holy hands," that is, a man whose life is not stained by habitual sin. One who is living a consecrated life before God. Think about it, the man who is leading the church in prayer is approaching God on behalf of the entire congregation. In order for the prayer on behalf of the entire group to be acceptable to God, the man leading the prayer must be acceptable to God.
We need to be careful that we do not understand "holy" to mean "sinless perfection." If that were the case, no one would be qualified to lead us in our worship. However, there are some obvious things that can "disqualify" a man from this service. One who is struggling with sin in his life (John 9:31), mistreating his family (1 Pet. 3:7), forsaking the assemblies (Heb. 10:25), or not abiding in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9) is not qualified by Scripture to lead the church in worship. If one finds himself thus "disqualified," he should not be content to be "left off the list," but should use this as a motivation to repent and make his life right with God.
3. Men of Faith. Paul said these praying men must be "without wrath and doubting." They must be believers. Prayer is powerless if it is not offered in faith. "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6-8). James goes on to say that "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (v. 20). Why would we want a man with anger or doubt in his heart leading us in our prayers (or any act of worship)?
While the above phrase primarily deals with a man's relationship with God, I believe it also has application to his relationship with others. What kind of influence does this man have upon the congregation? Is he a peacemaker, or does he sow discord among his brethren, thus causing contention and confusion? Would his taking a lead in the worship services help the congregation, or would it be a source of discouragement and frustration? What kind of influence does the man have in the outside world? What would people think of the church if they found out someone they knew to be worldly minded and involved in sin was leading us in our worship? These kinds of things must be considered.
It is a great privilege to be asked to lead in the worship service, and it is a great blessing that we appear to have so many men in this congregation who meet the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 2:8. Let's be sure that we are using the right kind of men to lead us in our worship, that we are encouraging all of our men (as well as our women) to be holy and faithful, and that we personally are striving to be holy and faithful in our own lives.