18th December 2023

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David Lifting His Hands in Worship

Psalm 63:3-4

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

David states in this psalm that part of his personal practice of worship was lifting up his hands in the name of the Lord.

The past century has seen a resurgence of that practice in Christian churches.
I do not consider the practice a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.
It is ultimately a personal matter of the heart, and not something that those who lead worship should encourage or discourage.

No one could know for certain the motive, heart attitude, or thoughts of another as they engage in worship with this physical expression.
At the same time, as something that goes expressed and noticed as part of public worship, we need to think carefully about it so that it does not become a vain an empty practice.

Here are some observations I have made over the years, and some good questions to ask as you evaluate your own thinking and practice in this area.

First, notice that there are many Old Testament examples (not commands) of raising hands in worship or prayer.
Generally, we do not see Christians publicly lie prostrate in repentant sorrow, tearing their clothes, putting on dustcloth and ashes, or burning incense.

One might argue that perhaps the church would be served by engaging in these practices as well.
Common sense, however, makes it clear that those outward expressions of worship were part of the religious culture of Judaism, and are not necessarily prescriptive of what we should practice today.

Perhaps it wouldn't be wrong, but it would probably not be understood or appreciated in our cultural setting (much like foot washing, which served a helpful purpose in the dusty Middle Eastern sandal culture, but loses its significance today).

Second, we should point out that there are some physical expressions of worship mandated in the New Testament.
Both baptism and communion are outward, physical expressions of worship.
As well, lifting up hands as part of corporate prayer is also commanded in the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:8).

That recognition means we can't see hand-raising as merely a cultural practice.
It did carry a practical and symbolic significance right into the New Testament church age.

Third, the contexts in which you see raising of hands as part of prayer and worship indicate that it served a number of possible purposes.
(1) There is a connection with holiness, both acknowledgement and praise for God's holiness and a personal desire for God to produce holiness in the life of the worshipper.
    Unholy, unrepentant people, would never have lifted up their hands, exposing the sins they were "clutching onto," to a holy God.

(2) Lifting hands is also seen as a way to invite God's blessing and presence as part of worship.
    We now have the indwelling Spirit as a constant and personal presence with us.
This does not make the invitation and request less necessary, any more than a child who is in the presence of their mummy would not reach up and ask to be held sometimes.

(3) As well, lifting of hands in worship is seen as an expression of thanks and dependence upon God and His Word, I appreciate how Sam Storms combines these ideas in his own explanation of the practice.
    He notes first that if you don't know WHY you are doing it, then it violates the principle that you must worship with understanding.

He says:
By all means, we must worship with understanding.
We must think rightly of God and love him with our heart and soul and mind.
But we are not, for that reason, any less physical beings...
why do I worship with hands raised?

Because like one who surrenders to a higher authority, I yield to God's will and ways and submit to his guidance and power and purpose in my life.

It is my way of saying, "God, I am yours to do with as you please."

Un-edited version avaiable, on request

Christ Community Church
We desire to bring glory and pleasure to our Heavenly Father in Christ-centered worship, fellowship and ministry.
We invite you to worship with us if you are vacationing in the Upper Valley or moving to this area!
We are...A conservative, evangelical church, committed to preaching all of God's truth through practical verse-by-verse preaching and teaching of the Bible.


Because like one who expresses utter vulnerability, I say to the Lord: "I have nothing to hide. I come to you open handed, concealing nothing.
My life is yours to search and sanctify. I'm holding nothing back.
My heart, soul, spirit, body and will are an open book to you."

Because like one who needs help, I confess my utter dependency on God for everything.
I cry out: "O God, I entrust my life to you. If you don't take hold and uplift me, I will surely sink into the abyss of sin and death.
I rely on your strength alone. Preserve me. Sustain me. Deliver me."
Because like one who happily and expectantly receives a gift from another, I declare to the Lord:
"Father, I gratefully embrace all you want to give.

I'm a spiritual beggar. I have nothing to offer other than my need of all that you are for me in Jesus.
So glorify yourself by satisfying me wholly with you alone."
Because like one who aspires to direct attention away from self to the Saviour, I say:
"O God, yours is the glory; yours is the power; yours is the majesty alone!"

Because as the beloved of God, I say tenderly and intimately to the Lover of my soul:
"Abba, hold me. Protect me. Reveal your heart to me. I am yours! You are mine!
Draw near and enable me to know and feel the affection in your heart for this one sinful soul."


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