I grew up in a devout Christian tradition that did not regularly practice the raising of hands in corporate worship. Other physical forms were expressed in corporate worship such as: bowing the head, closing the eyes (mainly in prayer), saying “Amen” (and other phrases of affirmation), occasionally (but with restraint) clapping hands, standing, sitting and kneeling.
It was not until seminary that I was exposed to a church tradition where people (including the pastor) raised their hand or hands during the songs and prayer of a corporate worship service. At first this was very strange to me and I felt it was excessively “showy” and unnecessarily distracting. Although the change has been slow and progressive I have now come to not only think differently about “hand raising” worshipers, I have become one myself. As a pastor of a church, I regularly worship with hands outstretched based on a strong conviction of its appropriateness and helpfulness as well as a careful acknowledgment (I pray) of the importance of a sincere heart and the dangerous temptation of spiritual showmanship.
How should we think about the physical expression of raising hands in corporate (or private worship)? To answer this question, I would like to first ask three foundational questions that help us answer the question of “hand-raising”.
- What is the essence of worship? Before we can ask if hand-raising is legitimate we need to know what worship really is.
- What physical expressions of worship do we see in the Bible? What examples of worship do we see practiced in the Old and New Testament that should give us an idea of acceptable physical forms of expression in worship?
- What does the Bible command and prohibit in regards to worship? What does the Bible explicitly say about what we must do in worship and what we must not do in worship?
More to come...