July 23, 2010

World's Largest Praying Hands - Tulsa, OK

In front of Oral Roberts University, passersby can see one of the largest monuments to religious devotion in the world – the world’s largest praying hands. The hands reach 60 feet into the air and weigh 30 tons, making them the largest bronze sculpture in the world.

At the base of the sculpture is a plaque commemorating Oral Robert’s vision from God to build the university. God said: “Build me a University. Build it on my authority and the Holy Spirit.” (Of course, this isn’t the only thing God allegedly commanded Roberts to do. But more on that later.)

The hands were originally called “The Healing Hands,” and stood in front of “The City of Faith," a faith healing medical center. But the City of Faith declared bankruptcy in 1989 and so the hands were moved to the entrance of Oral Roberts University.

I’ll admit this now – I am terrified of Oral Roberts University. Part of this has to do with the founder, Oral Roberts. Some may remember Roberts as the televangelist who extorted $9 million from his viewers when he claimed that if he did not receive $8 million in donations, then God would “call him home.” Essential Roberts made a ransom demand with the Almighty as his greedy captor. The school has been plagued by similarly sketchy financial practices – from exorbitant debt to claims that the school’s administrators use school funds to finance lavish lifestyles.

Another fear has to do with the teachings of the school. Oral Roberts University takes Pentecostal religious fundamentalism to the extreme and enforces strict religious codes on the students. Students must sign an honor code, promising not to lie, curse, smoke, drink, gamble or engage in sexual activities outside of marriage. This last restriction also includes homosexuality – that’s right, Oral Roberts University does not allow openly gay students.

When not restricting the students’ behaviors, the school is restricting how they are allowed to look. Up until 2006, women were required to wear skirts on campus while the men wore button down shirts and ties. The students are also known for engaging in some controversial religious practices. In 1997, some students disrupted services at a Tulsa mosque by praying loudly for the conversion of the worshipping Muslims inside. I have also heard stories from ORU students about trips to Mexico to perform exorcisms and speaking in tongues.

I want to emphasize I’m not trying to disparage ORU. I’m just saying the extreme practices of the school administrators and the students really, really creeps me out. In this context, the hands have developed an ominous, almost malevolent feeling for me. When I see them, I don’t see a beautiful sculpture. I see a man using God as a justification for his practices, for good or for bad.

Total Distance Traveled: 5 miles
Total Time Traveled: 11 minutes
Soundtrack: "Carnival Ride" Carrie Underwood



  1. I agree with you about all the scary religious stuff, but I'm sure I'd stop and take a look if I was in the area.

  2. I am not commenting about the teachings of the university. However, 'the world's largest praying hands' looks awesome. I would definitely love to visit this place and take a snap. I am always fond of visiting unusual places and write about them in my blog - http://indiancolumbus.blogspot.com

  3. They are DEFINITELY worth stopping to see! I usually don't comment about religion or politics or things like that in this blog, but this post was different because it was about a roadside attraction I grew up with and growing up with it I had a very unique perspective. Seeing the hands on my first visit back to Oklahoma in three years, I looked at it with the weight of my personal history and experiences. I think someone who was driving by, without knowing the history of ORU or the hands, would probably have a very different reaction and one I'd love to hear about.

  4. For anyone wanting to stop and take a pic or two of these huge hands, please do not stop in the middle of the road when you pull on to campus, there is a small parking lot to the right where you can safely and non obstructively admire the hands.

  5. Thanks for the suggestion, j14ackie! And you are right, I made sure to park in the small parking lot to the right before I took these pictures.