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Woman, Prayer & Head Covering

Should a woman cover her head when praying?  Is her hair an accepted covering?

by Lynford Heron
The Centurion Press - Posted Saturday, January 18, 2003


To cover, or not to cover, has been a delicate issue for many years.  The Christian church seem to leave it up to conscience or personal opinion.  But should we treat it as a gray issue?  Was it a 

trivial admonition, or was it a instruction given to man through the inspiration of the holy spirit, that the Lord expects every man to adhere to?  If that is the case, then we would need a clear and complete understanding of the head covering issue, so that every one would be able to make an educated decision whether to stand for God or for man.

Before looking at 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, let us establish a foundation.

What issue was Paul addressing?  What was the subject matter?
Was Paul addressing men having long hair or women with bald heads?  What was his main concern?  Paul, a follower of Christ, a minister unto the Gentiles (Romans 15:16 "That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.")
had the responsibility of teaching and delivering all the precepts of Christ unto the Gentiles.  The Corinthians were not Jews, they were Gentiles.  Paul had a grave work to do in Corinth, for Corinth was famous for its wealth, luxury, trade, prostitution and idol worship.  The principal deity was Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  The temple of Apollo was built on the north slope of the Acro-Corinthus.  According to legal requirements, 1,000 beautiful young women officiated as courtesans, or public prostitutes, before the alter of the goddess of love.  Needless to say, considering their corrupted practices, the command to teach, baptize and teach again, was completely exercised in Corinth, so that the Corinthians would understand the way of the Lord.

Therefore, Paul addressed the Corinthian believers in this fashion:
1 Corinthians 11:2
"Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you."
Paul's objective was to deliver the ordinances of Jesus Christ to the Corinthians with the hope that they would keep them.  The ordinance that he was delivering in this instance, was the covering of the head by Christian women when praying or prophesying.  Let us comb through each verse to get the full understanding.

1 Corinthians 11:3
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
Paul is laying the foundation in verse 3.  He wants every man (male and female) to honor their head.  Therefore, Paul explained the situations in verse 4 that would  cause an individual to dishonor their head.

1 Corinthians 11:4
"Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head."
Paul started with men.  He wanted to explain to the Corinthians, the Christian way.  He explained that if a man prays or prophesy with his head covered (a hat or any form of head covering) he dishonoureth his head, which is Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:5
"But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven."
"But," the Bible says, which means, "on the other hand," when a woman prays with her head uncovered, she dishonors her head which is the man.  At this point Paul introduces his first comparison to stress the repulsiveness of not covering by stating, "For that is even all one as if she were shaven."  How many bald headed woman do we see walking around?  Having a bald head as a woman just does not look right, and that is why Paul used the "as if she were shaven" example.  We have to keep focus as well on the subject matter.  The subject matter is the ordinance of a woman covering her head when praying.  "Shaven" is not the issue, nor the subject.  It was used so that the Corinthians would have an example.  Paul uses another comparison a few verses down as a reasoning point to expose the unnatural nature of a woman not covering her head.  Notice that the admonition to cover, was given while the Corinthians had hair, else Paul would not have suggested for them to be shaven.  We will follow up on that point later.

1 Corinthians 11:6
"For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."
In this verse, the subject matter remains covering.  Paul is now explaining what "for that is even all one if she were shaven" means.  Why would Paul compare a woman not covering her head when she prays with being shaven (walking around with a bald head).  The answer, it is a shame.  It is a shame basically to all woman to walk around with a bald head.  A woman understands well, that her hair is her beauty.  Likewise, he is saying unto them, for which they understand well, it is also a shame to pray with your head uncovered.  Christ used the same approach when preaching to the multitude.  He would use something that the people understand so well, something that they could relate to, so that he could effectively drive home his point.  In addition, Paul says, "For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn."  Which woman would jump to that alternative?  None.  It is easier to just put something on their heads.  So Paul created a situation where making the decision to cover relatively easy, considering the alternative.  The Bible says, "He that winneth a soul is wise."  Proverbs 11:30.  Paul had good reasoning ability.

1 Corinthians 11:7
"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man."
Remember, the Corinthians needed to be thought in the ways of the Lord.  They were not Israelites.  The ordinance of head covering was important for them to understand.  Why?  It is all about headship, honoring and giving glory to ones head.  So Paul confirms the fact that a man should not cover his head in verse 7, for he, the man, is the image and glory of God.  On the other hand, a woman should cover her head, for she is the glory of the man.

The Misunderstandings - Shaving and long hair as a covering
Matthew 13:34
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
Christ always used parables when speaking to the people.  The Bible makes it clear that without a parable spake he not unto them.  Why?  Because spiritual things are spiritually discerned.  The entire multitude were not spiritual.   Therefore, he would use earthly examples that the people could relate to, thereby, explaining the way that he would have them to walk.

Paul used the same method.  Many analogies were used in Paul's writing to communicate effectively his message.  Therefore, when he spoke of shaving and long hair as a covering, they were used to cement his point.  Let us look at those verses.

1 Corinthians 11:13
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Paul promotes choice and personal conviction.  As he often spoke words like, "let every man be convinced in his own mind," likewise he is saying to the Corinthians, "Judge in yourselves."  Then the question is asked, "is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?"  Paul selective choose the comely for its meaning conveys his message beautifully.  According to the dictionary, comely means, "Suitable or becoming; proper; agreeable, seemly, good behavior"  Paul is saying to the Corinthian women, that praying without covering their head is not becoming, it is not proper.

1 Corinthians 11:14-15
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Paul wants the Corinthian women to view the act of not covering their heads when praying as against nature, and a shameful practice.  He plans to achieve that by comparing not covering, with a man having long hair.  Therefore, in verse 15, he is merely showing the Corinthians what looks good and what does not.  The subject remains covering, however, the comparison between the hair length of a man and a woman is use to convey the shamefulness of the act of not covering when praying.  When Paul says, "for her hair is given to her as a covering," that is in direct relation to his comparison of a man having long hair.  "But" he says, If a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her.  Then he says "For," in other words, "Why is it her glory," for it was given to her for a covering.  In other words, a woman is suppose to have long hair and not a man.  The long hair/covering issue was used as an example to express what is natural, and what's not.  Thus explaining that not covering is unnatural.

Remember, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, the woman had hair on their head.  The women of Corinth had long hair.  Yet Paul was advocating a head piece, a covering.  We know they had hair, else he would not suggest for them to be shorn or shaven.  Shorn means, "To remove hair by cutting or clipping."  They must have had hair to shave it or shorn it, right?  Therefore, contrary to the teachings of many, Paul was not saying that the hair of a woman is an accepted covering.  Christian women have been covering their heads a generation and more ago.  Were our fore fathers wrong?  Were the Christians of the 1960's and 1970's wrong?  Was it truth then?  Friends, God does not change and we should not change the principles of God in order to conform to this ever changing, corrupted world.


Why is it that women are fighting against this beautiful principle of God?  It is because of perversion.  The devil has perverted this virtuous practice and has succeeded in discrediting the word of God by the employment of fanatical and extremist groups.  The Bible never advocated a woman to cover her face.  The picture to the right has the finger prints of the devil all over it.  The Bible does not endorse such an attire.  In fact, the Bible classifies those who cover their face as harlots.  Extreme

CNN - The Extreme veiling practice - NOT support by God.


Genesis 38:14
13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.
14 And she put her widow's garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.

We are told that Tamar took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil.  There was nothing wrong with veiling herself, the problem is with the area of the body that was veiled.  Our attire does tell a tale.  The Bible says in Proverbs 7:10, "And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart."  The harlot has her attire and the people of God has theirs.  Therefore, in verse 15 of Genesis 38, we see that Judah thought Tamar was an harlot because she covered her face with the veil.  God's way is the veiling of the head only, where the glory of the woman lies, her hair.

Most women associate veiling when praying with the women in the picture above.  Therefore, any suggestion to carry out the beautiful principle of head covering seems to conjour up ugly images of oppression and control in the minds of women, thereby accomplishing the objective of the devil.

I did not find any scripture in the Bible stating that a women should cover her head and face at all times.  The Bible states that a woman should cover her head when praying and prophesying.  Therefore, if a woman is not praying or prophesying, a head covering is not needed.  The practice of the early Christians, which I endorse, was to travel with a small veil in the event that they should pray or prophesy.  I also endorse the practice of Paul of inviting every man to judge within themselves whether this message is Bible truth or complete error.


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