Every week, we proclaim glorious truths of Jesus Christ and His substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf through song. We lift our voices among fellow brothers and sisters, sharing a unity of our love for this Christ, who has utterly transformed us and raised us from death to life. Our once hopeless lives have been redeemed. We owe our complete and total allegiance to Jesus Christ, our Savior and God.
But how should our hearts respond to such truth? How do we demonstrate our allegiance to Christ? Should we raise our voices with lifted hands, or should we refrain from doing so? Should hand-raising be a regular occurrence in our congregational gatherings, or is it a distracting and potentially prideful gesture?
What Does Scripture Say about Hand Raising?
There are various beliefs shared among believers when it comes to hand raising within church gatherings. But rather than examine what people say on the matter, let’s turn to scripture, our source of truth and standard of living.
The Bible notes several instances of God’s people raising their hands. Among others, 1 Timothy 2:8 says, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” David writes, “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!” (Psalm 134:2), and “Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:2).
Lifted hands in these verses are an indication of surrender and praise, and this is the response we should have before our Almighty God. The gospel should lead us to a humble recognition of our state prior to Christ, and our utter unworthiness of His lavish grace.
While Scripture does not explicitly command or condemn hand-raising in our services, it does command a heart of worship and surrender to our gracious and holy God.
The Heart Behind Hand Raising
I often wonder how God’s people can proclaim glorious truths of the gospel while remaining disengaged and somber. When we worship the God before whom angels fall prostrate (Revelation 7:11), whose creatures bow before in worship and awe (Philippians 2:10), and whose mighty arm snatches us from the domain of darkness and transfers us to His own heavenly kingdom (Colossians 1:13), how can this not influence our worship?
It must! But not merely on the outside with the raising of our hands, and the lifting of our voices. Because God is not like man, He looks at the heart. “…For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7b).
What is the heart behind your posture of worship? Do your lifted hands reveal a heart of surrender and praise to your Savior, or one of desire to fit in with those around you? What do your lowered hands reveal? A heart that fears man? Does your heart well with pride because you refrain from raising your hands when others do, or because you raise them when others don’t?
Should I Raise My Hands in Worship?
“All glory be to Christ”, our voices proclaimed that particular Sunday morning. I looked a few rows ahead of where my family was sitting and noticed the lifted hands of a young mother whose two children had recently perished in a tragic accident. This mother’s simple act of praise encouraged me as I witnessed her desire to glorify God amid immense suffering.
We are a people of emotion. We are a people of response. We are a people of expression. While we must be wary of allowing our emotions to lead us rather than the truth, God created our emotions, and we can rightly use them to glorify Him.
In whatever environment God places you, do not allow your pride or fear of man to hinder your worship. Evaluate your heart posture. Carefully contemplate and study Scripture on the matter. Pray through your motivations for either raising your hands or for refraining from raising them.
If the gospel pales in comparison to other excitements in life, we must repent. If sinful pride is the reason we raise our hands in worship, we must repent. If fear of man is why we refrain from raising them, we must repent. If we simply go along with what everyone else does without a second thought, we must repent.
God is worthy of all our worship and praise as our Creator and Redeemer. He is worthy of our hearts. What is your heart towards the One who rescued you from hopelessness and adopted you as His child?