The laying on of hands is a symbolic act that sets individuals apart and signifies the imparting of spiritual blessings, authority, and/or power. In the Old Testament, a blessing was often conferred in this way. For example, Jacob passed on blessings from God by laying his hands on Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:13-20).
In the New Testament, a newly baptized person had hands laid on him for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Notice in Acts 8:17-18 that after God's ministers had baptized repentant converts, "they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. . . . [T]hrough the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given. . . ." Also see Acts 19:5-6 and II Timothy 1:6.
The laying on of hands also accompanies an elder's prayer for the afflicted. Acts 9:17 says, "And Ananias . . . putting his hands on him [Paul] said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'"
Another purpose for the laying on of hands is that of ordination. An example is found in Acts 6. Here seven men became deacons when the apostles prayed and "laid hands on them" (verse 6).
The laying on of hands, then, serves to show that God works through His ministers. This ceremony is mentioned as one of the basic doctrines of His church in Hebrews 6:2.