Pray with Palms

Does your church celebrate with palms on Palm Sunday? Here's how to wave them in prayer!

Posted in , Mar 27, 2015

Hands waving palms. Thinkstock.

You know, of course, that Christians have celebrated Palm Sunday (or Passion Sunday, as it is sometimes called) by waving palm branches as they march or sing in worship. The palms commemorate Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19).

That first “Palm Sunday” electrified the crowds of pilgrims entering the city for the upcoming celebration of Passover. Those pilgrims would have recognized in Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the fulfillment of the prophet Zechariah’s words:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

    righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

They also would have associated Jesus’ approach to the city and the temple with Judas Maccabeus (“Judas the Hammer”). 

He led a uniquely successful Jewish rebellion several centuries before and entered the holy city “singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, while carrying palm branches and playing harps, cymbals and lyres” (1 Maccabees 13:51).

In fact, the local coins of that era had since been stamped with palm branches, the family emblem of the Maccabees.

So, when Jesus entered the city that day, on a donkey, to cries of “hosanna” and waving palm branches, those who saw the parade would have identified him as the long-awaited deliverer, the rebel king who would save his people–though they didn’t understand that the kingdom Jesus established was “not of this world” (John 18:33), but was instead a spiritual, eternal and relational reality–a kingdom of the heart, not of the earth.

So, this Palm Sunday, if you have the opportunity to wave a palm branch, here are a few ways to pray with palms:

  • Remember that “hosanna” means “save.” So wave your palm and pray for those people you know who are in need of deliverance: “Hosanna Susan! Hosanna Arthur!” and so on.
  • Instead of randomly waving your palm around, wave it in blessing in the direction of those you want to pray for. Point it in the pastor’s direction. Wave it toward a friend you want God to bless. Sweep it over the heads of your family as a prayer for God’s free and full deliverance to visit them.
  • As your worship ends, pluck the fronds from the palm (as if you were plucking the petals from a daisy), praying for someone different with each pull from the stem. You may even want to invite friends or family members to join in this prayer exercise.

Does your family or church celebrate with palms? What part do they play in your worship? Have you used them (or will you) to facilitate prayer? If so, please comment  below and let me know how. 

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