What is the significance of lifting up our hands in worship? Pastor Janet Tang shares.
The lifting of hands in worship is a common sight to many of us, especially in Assemblies of God churches. But why do we do it? Some of us were never actually told why we lift our hands in worship. We grew up doing what we see others do during worship, or we simply follow the instructions of the worship leader or pastor.
So is the lifting of hands in worship a denominational thing? Many people have asked this, and in fact, over the years, it has been associated primarily with the Charismatic movement. The answer lies in the Scriptures. In both the Old and New Testament, we find that the lifting of hands in worship is one amongst the many postures of worship mentioned, including standing, kneeling, prostrating, dancing, clapping, marching, etc.
The lifting of hands was never meant to be associated with any movement. It is mentioned many times in the Bible and is a posture of worship used by many men of God—such as David, Ezra and Solomon, to name but a few.
“Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:6 (NASB)
“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, and he prayed, ‘O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.’” 1 Kings 8:22-23 (NLT)
”In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” 1 Timothy 2:8 (NLT)
Now that we have determined the scriptural basis of the lifting of hands in worship, let us look at some aspects of the lifting of hands.
Meaning of lifting of hands:
- It is an expression of adoration. Those who ministered in the Temple were exhorted to “lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.” (Psalms 134:2, NIV) This gesture indicated that theobject of praise was the Lord and that the whole person was involved in the act. At concerts or fan meetings with movie stars, we see at least half the crowd lifting their hands in adoration to their idols, holding up light sticks or handmade banners with the pictures and names of the Shouldn’t we, who behold the beauty of our Savior in adoration, all the more lift up outstretched arms in adoration to our Lord?
- Itis a physical expression of prayer and “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.” (Psalms 28:2)
- Itis an expression of sacrifice and “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (Psalms 141:2) Visualize for a moment with me, if someone were to come up behind you with a gun or a knife pointing at our back, what would be the first thing that we normally do? Our instincts would have us lift up our hands. Or even when a policeman was to catch a criminal, his first instruction will always be to lift up your hands. The lifting up of our hands puts us in a vulnerable position. Likewise, as we lift up our hands to the Lord, we are indicating to the Lord that we are opening our hearts and lives to the working of the Spirit.
- It is an expression of reaching out and thirsting for God. “I lift my hands to you in I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.” (Psalms 143:6, NLT) Just as children would reach their hands out to their parents for food or drink when they are hungry or thirsty. Similarly, as we hunger for God in our lives, we express it by lifting upour hands in worship.
- It is an act of blessing God. “So I will bless You as longas I live; I will lift up my hands in Your ” (Psalms 63:4, NASB)
- Itis a symbolic act of receiving everything that God is doing in our lives. When a King bestows a gift to his subject, the recipient is always on his knees, lifting up his hands to receive his reward from the King. As we lift up our hands unto the Lord, we are also displaying the same act of receiving from the Lord, indicating our willingness to accept all that the Lord has for us.
As I pen off, I pray that the understanding of the posture of worship (in this case, lifting of hands) will be an aid in our expression of our worship to Him, but may it never be one that determines our worship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
About Pastor Janet Tang:
Pastor Janet is a former Worship Pastor (2000- 2013) and Care Cell Pastor (2013-2015) of Emmanuel Assembly of God. She has been leading worship since the age of 12. It is her heartbeat to go to all nations to lead, preach and teach about worship. She desires to raise a generation of worshipers awaiting His return.