Lifting Up Holy Hands

Posture is often symbolic. When a young man wants to propose, he gets down on one knee. When he has messed up royally and needs to apologize, its two knees. If someone points a gun at you, your raise your hands in surrender. If your children want you to hold them, they raise their arms.  We were created as holistic beings with intellects, emotions, and bodies all working in concert with one another to express ourselves.

On Sunday, Oct. 28th, we considered Solomon’s advice on worshiping God with the right approach and the right perspective.  When we turned to Isaiah 1 (specifically verse 15), I shared how lifting up our hands in a worship service represents clean hearts or pure lives.  The Bible is filled with allusions to clean hands as a symbol for godly actions and a pure heart.  The psalmist writes “I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and tell all your wondrous deeds” (Ps. 26:6-7).  Job spoke of the pureness of his prayer because his hands were not involved in violence (Job 16:17).  Symbolically, Pilate washes his hands to show he is innocent of the blood of Jesus when delivering him over to be crucified (Matt 27:24).  James calls believers to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded” (James 4:8).  Thus the hands are a synecdoche—a part that represents the whole.  Lifting up our hands represents lifting up our whole lives.  Romans 12:1 tell us “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  Hands symbolize the activities of life; therefore, holy hands represent a holy life.

This brings us to 1 Tim. 2:8.  Paul writes to Timothy saying, “I desire that in every place the men should pray lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”  Before we look at what the passage is saying, we need to remember what the Bible does not say.  First, there is no posture that is expressly more biblical than others.  We find a variety of postures in the Bible including standing, kneeling, laying flat on the ground, eyes open, eyes closed, hands up, etc.  Second, God is more concerned with our internal posture rather than our external posture (1 Sam. 15:21-22; Isa. 1:10-18; Mal. 1;10-16).

So, the main point of 1 Tim. 2:8 is men praying verses the posture of their prayer.  Now, let’s notice some things that the passage is saying.  First, notice lifting up holy hands is done in the context of praying not singing.  Second, our hands are to be “holy” raised before God instead of clinched before man in “anger or quarreling.”  Paul does not want hypocrisy going on in church.  Once again, we see our posture is to represent our holy lives not just show good worship form.

What does all of this mean for us at FCBC?  There is no problem with different postures of worship during a Sunday gathering.  Whatever these postures are, they should be reflective of an inward posture of holiness and obedience to the Lord.

Hand raising can mean many different things to many different people in many different cultures.  Therefore, there will be many different ways to justify that posture of worship.  Perhaps a self-examination before the Lord is best way forward.  Please consider asking yourself these kinds of questions in regards to raising hands:

  • Why? Why do I raise my hands during a Sunday gathering?
  • When? When do I raise my hands?  Am I able to raise my hands during prayer or only when the music is playing?  Since worship is more than music, should I raise my hands during prayer, reading of the Word, giving an offering, or taking communion?  Are there only certain songs that make me raise my hands while others do not?  If so, why?
  • Where? Where is the scriptural proof that I am given license to do so?

These questions are not limited to those that raise their hands.  Everyone should ask these kinds of question with however they express themselves in a worship service.  Even if you are the “folded arm” type or the person who doesn’t sing, we can all critique why, when, and where do we find scriptural support.

No matter how we express it, we want our bodies to reveal our heart’s condition.  Whether hands raised or arms folded, standing or kneeling, God wants more than for us to go through the outward motions without actually worshiping.  God wants our hearts, not the position of our hands.  Does your posture reveal your heart posture before the Lord?

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