In recent worship meetings I’ve been in, it has often struck me how different groups will practice this matter of raising your hands in prayer or worship – or NOT lifting hands in prayer and worship. I suspect in the groups that don’t practice it, if someone were to raise their hands in prayer and worship, it wouldn’t be long before someone in authority would be trying to discourage any repetition of this.
In one recent group I attended, maybe 6-7 hands would go up out of 150 or so in attendance. In another meeting, perhaps half the adult audience was raising their hands at one time or another. I fear that it has become so ingrained in us to either raise our hands in prayer and worship --or not raise our hands-- that it will be hard for anyone to change, unless we are truly convicted to let Scripture guide and lead us. Also, pray about it and ask God’s Spirit to lead you and me into all truth, as Yeshua promised. So read on to learn what scripture says about this.
Let’s start with the clear teaching and examples from YHVH’s word:
1 Timothy 2:8
“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath…”
King David says in Psalm 41:2:
“Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
When the Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, we read in Nehemiah 8:6, pertaining to ALL the people, including women and children present (v.2):
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God.
Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
We know the story of how Aaron and Hur lifted up Moses’ arms during the battle with Amalek in Exodus 17:8-13. When Moses’ arms were raised in petition to Yahweh, the Israelites prevailed. When he dropped his arms in fatigue, Amalek had the “upper arm”. Thank Yah that there were men ready to support Moses when he was tired. May we also be there for one another, raising each other up in prayer to our heavenly throne of grace.
Here’s one way I understand it: We are Abba’s children, no matter how old we are. Have you ever watched a three-year old or even a six-year old rushing to their beloved father whom they haven’t seen for a while? They run towards him with arms raised, as Daddy is bending down to pick them up. That’s my picture. I think of praise and worship like this. We are his children, He is our Abba, our dear father. We’re thrilled with Him, and so we reach up to Him, even as He is reaching down to us.
Another one: I remember my own daughters – and later my son – when they were little. If they became afraid of something or someone, they would run to me (or their Mom) with their arms raised, wanting us to pick them up and assure them that everything was alright.
So here are a few more, using NKJV throughout. However, I use the original Hebrew “YHVH” where they say “the LORD”.
To You I will cry, O YHVH my Rock: Do not be silent to me,
Lest, if You are silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You,
When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
Behold, bless YHVH, All you servants of YHVH, Who by night stand in the house of YHVH!
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless YHVH.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
When we worship with King David in the new kingdom coming, we WILL see him raising his hands in worship and prayer. Will you and I follow his example at that time? If so, why not now?
Solomon must have often seen his dad doing this, so Solomon also raised HIS arms in prayer at the dedication of the temple:
1 Kings 8:22
22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of YHVH in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven;
If you’re not used to this, it may take a while to feel comfortable. Do it in private, in your own room as you pray privately at first. If you attend where others already are doing this in worship, it should be easy to try it at services. If this is not done where you worship, perhaps begin by lifting up your hands to your chest/shoulder level and see how that is perceived or if anyone says anything. Have the above scriptures ready, if you are questioned. If it is forbidden, maybe it’s time to worship somewhere else. Don’t cause offense; just move to a group that welcomes worshiping with raised arms.
I’m not saying everyone or anyone has to raise their hands in prayer. But I am saying neither should it be forbidden. This is a most personal choice, a personal decision -- and surely church authorities should let their brothers and sisters worship as each is led in his or her heart. Try it. It adds a whole new dimension to your worship. Remember, we are His Children. Abba seems to enjoy seeing His children raise their arms up to Him as we come to Him in song, praise and worship.