Lifting Hands in Worship – Part Two

A few years ago, on Wednesday, September 05, 2007, I did a poll survey entitled “What Do You Think Of People Raising Their Hands To Pray Or While Singing?” The poll, offered, in light of the text contained in (Psalm 63:4 and 1 Tim. 2:8.)

The results of that poll were:

• 32% said I have no problem with it.

• 24% said I do not do it, and it does not bother me.

• 16% said It distracts me.

• 12% said I do not do it, and it bothers me.

• 12% said who cares, it is a personal response.

• 4% said It is my way of showing surrender to the Lord.

New information I have learned in my on-going study into this topic has revealed some interesting insight for me. The first is that people as a whole do not like change even if it has scriptural backing, is a harmless change, and they find ways to put it down and condemn as being wrong just because they do not like it or they are not use to it. It is uncomfortable to them.

If you have ever attended other congregations around the country, you have probably noticed people lifting their hands at times during the worship service. Depending on your background and experiences, you may have wondered, “why do people do that?” or “am I expected to do that also?”

Let us take a moment to look at the background of the practice of lifting of hands in worship. First, it is a part of a model for worship, at times, referred to as “Davidic worship,” which is the expression of worship associated with the Tabernacle of David. Davidic worship is celebratory in nature. It is said that David’s heart of worship and intimacy with God was a foreshadowing of the new covenant brought about by a son of David centuries later: Jesus. In addition to lifting of hands (Psalms 63:4, 134:2 and 1 Tim. 2:8), other characteristics of Davidic worship include:

• Bowing/kneeling (Psalms 95:6, 138:2)

• Clapping (Psalms 47:1)

• Dancing (Psalms 149:3)

• Shouting (Psalms 47:5, 100:1)

The worship of David, who was known as a man after God’s own heart (in spite of his many weaknesses), brought peace to a natural king (Saul) and favor with the King of Kings. You could say that David stood out in a crowd with the reckless abandon with which he brought his praise to the Lord. His wife Michal was so embarrassed by it that she mocked him publically as we see in (2 Sam. 6:14-23) for which she was rebuked and made barren consequently. It seems that God is less concerned about our dignity than we are! In fact, being undignified before man in praise to the Lord is one definition of true humility (Psalms 51:17 ~ The Message).

Now, to the lifting of hands in particular: Of all of the acts of praise listed in Davidic worship, lifting of hands represents surrender. It is a sacrifice of our will and of our pride to the Lord, that He might be lifted up and His perfect will established. (Psalms 141:2) says: “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Under the new covenant, we don’t bring lambs to be sacrificed on an alter in our modern church buildings. We don’t burn incense as an offering to seek the favor of God. The sacrifice that God desires of us through Christ’ redemption is our very heart and soul.

When we lift our hands to him, we are offering ourselves up to him in sweet innocence and with our highest reach, asking for Him to come and be with us. I have two children. When they were younger and could not talk very well, if they were hurt or they just wanted to be cuddled, carried, and loved by their daddy, they would lift their hands up. That simple act spoke more than all the words that they could say.

Sometimes I think that we rely too much on our words that we miss the simplicity, of becoming like little children, and just reaching up for our Father God as His humble children.

If you are reading this, and if you have been hesitant to lift up hands in a worship service, I would encourage you to do so if you have a heart’s desire to do so as an expression of your surrender and love for God. It may be a little uncomfortable or awkward at first, especially if you are “old school” or a manly male. Please remember, David was a the manliest of males and he certainly was no wimp! He was a mighty warrior and the king of Israel. Ultimately, raising hands is not about us.

Why do we praise God:

• He is worthy of it

• He lives in it

• We were created for it

• We are blessed by it

• We draw near to God by it

• God draws near to us through it