Archive for May, 2013

Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

If you raise your hands in worship, do you often think about the significance of what it is that you’re doing (thus worshiping God with your mind, as well as with your emotions)?

We really miss out in our times of praise and worship if we’re not fully engaged with God in conversation, in listening and in understanding what it is that we’re doing. Would you agree?

The purpose of this article is to explain why the people of God in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and throughout Church history have worshiped and prayed with hands extended to our Lord – an act which is extremely biblical – and to show you, the reader how cultivating a lifestyle of lifting your hands to God will greatly benefit you.

The Lifting of Hands to God in the Old Testament

In the following Old Testament passages hands were raised in prayer, symbolizing the following: humility and repentance (Ezra 9:5; Lam. 3:41).

Hands raised in prayer also signified praise, rejoicing, deep contrition and thanksgiving (1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; Ps. 63:3-5).
Moreover, we find an expression of dependence (1 Kings 8:38; Ps. 28:2; 143:1-6; Lam. 2:19); worship and adoration (1 Kings 8:22; Ps. 63:3-5); blessing the LORD (Ps. 134:2).

In addition, hands raised in prayer also signified brokenness and intercession for others (Lam. 2:19) as well as faith for answered in prayer (Ps. 141:2).

We’ve just examined at least twelve extremely important aspects of what it means to lift our hands to the Lord!
And the root Hebrew word translated “lift” in Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 134:2; 141:2 has a wide variety of applications, including to extol, to magnify, to receive, to regard, to respect and to yield. Thus, I count 18 reasons for why we lift our hands to God in worship.

But they’re not only reasons; they’re results of interaction with Him – and that’s what worship in song – or any form of worship, for that matter, is all about.

When Jesus tells us that we are to “worship the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30), surely the clapping of hands, the raising of hands and dancing before the LORD (2 Sam. 6:14) are three ways of our need for physical worship.

Thus, in effect, these OT saints were communicating each of the above actions to God as they prayed and variously, they simultaneously extolled, magnified and asked Him to receive from them; they held Him in regard and respect and they yielded to Him.

What was the result of these acts of prayer? Again, these believers physically and spiritually expressed love for God and they demonstrably fulfilled the greatest commandment (Mt. 22:37; Mark 12:30) by worshiping Him with all of their heart, soul and mind and strength.

Think of it, loved one: when we express all of the above through the lifting of our hands to our Lord – and understand what it is that we’re doing and why we’re doing it — how might this impact your relationship with Him?
Powerful as this is, there’s more. The OT saints also raised their hands in glad adoration to God for His Word (Ps. 119:47-48; Neh. 8:1-8).

If you practiced this as well, how might that affect your time spent in God’s Word? Do you think you might get more out of it?

Friend of God, do you ever raise your hands to Him in humility, for praise and rejoicing, for worship and adoration, in dependence upon Him for understanding and accurate interpretation of His Word, to bless Him, to express faith in Him answering your prayers and to thank Him?

According to an article in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on “Gesture,” the one who stood praying may have begun with palms cupped together, followed by the raising of arms and the spreading out of hands.

Moreover, one of the Hebrew words translated “to give thanks” (e.g. Ps. 118:21, 29) is yadah, whose secondary meaning of the root word meant to throw the hands (in thanksgiving).

According to Strong’s Concordance, this word was used especially to revere or worship, with extended hands.
It was used in a public proclamation or declaration of God’s attributes and His works. The concept is at the heart of the meaning of praise (the synonym is halal).

Praise is a confession or declaration of who God is and of what He does.

However, when thanking God, the verb form is hodah, an intensive form of yadah; this word is only used of giving thanks to God: it is never used of giving thanks to man. Thus, hodah is a way of praising.

In Ps. 100:4, we’re called to “enter His gates with thanksgiving.” This Hebrew word is todah, which in Strong’s is an extension of the hands in adoration, praise or thanks.

Todah is a cognate (related in nature) noun, derived from yadah and it basically means “confession,” either of sin or of God’s character and works.
It was used of a “thank offering” or of a “praise offering.” In this case, it was accompanied by joy (Jer. 17:26; 33:11; Ps. 95:2; 100).

Singing appears to have been a common means through which one confessed God’s greatness (Ps. 147:4).
When Solomon dedicated the temple to the LORD (1 Kings 8:1-61;), the climax of that dedication resulted in him being on his knees with his hands spread toward heaven in great worship, adoration, thanksgiving and contrition (vv. 22, 54) and when he stood to bless the people, he would have lifted up his hands over them (v.55; cf. Lev. 9:22; Luke 24:50).

Moreover, the lifting of one’s hands to the LORD symbolizes the directing one’s entire being to Him (Lam. 3:41; Ps. 25:1; 86:4; 141:2; 143:8).

Thus, this simple act – sometimes easy to do and sometimes a choice and act of our will — is a spiritual exercise to express the deepest adoration, surrender and dependence upon our God.

Speaking of dependence upon God, during those times when I’m down, discouraged or frustrated – during those times that God seems so distant and prayer is therefore difficult – I often choose to raise my hands to Him.

Literally, I might be walking somewhere in my home (and this happens often, though not often enough) and just raise my hands in worship, adoration, thanksgiving or rejoicing to the Lord – by faith.

And I can tell you honestly and by experience that this simple act really does change me on the inside!
The result of this spiritual exercise is the proper worship of God, but His people also come away having been in His presence, resulting in joy (Ps. 16:11) and strength (Neh. 8:10).

This practice, which is also a tangible means of thanksgiving, is one sure means of being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

The Lifting of Hands to God in the New Testament

We might be surprised to find only one instance where someone is called upon to “lift up” their hands in prayer to God in the NT (1 Tim. 2:8), but on the other hand, the NT writers saw all of Scripture as a unity and the OT as an example for NT believers (1 Cor. 10:6; Rom. 15:4; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).

In addition, the book of Psalms essentially served as the hymnbook for the Church as well, so they were quite familiar with the raising of hands in prayer.

In 1 Tim. 2:8 there is a clear connection (and perhaps a contrast with Is. 1:15) between the lifting up of hands for the purpose of prayer and the cessation of “wrath and dissension”: when one is praying in an attitude of dependence and submission, one must also respond in humility before God – and it takes humility to forsake wrath and dissension.

Thus, the lifting of hands is also a display of reverence to God: “holy” (hosios) meant “unpolluted” or “unstained by evil.”

Again, it should be clear by now that the gesture of raising hands to the Lord is a vital spiritual exercise for us and furthermore, it is not optional: Scripture calls us to lift or raise our hands to our all-deserving God!

The lifting up of holy hands “stood for that which was in accordance with divine direction and providence. The word describes the pious, pure and clean action which is in accordance with God’s command. The hands are holy which have not been given over to wicked lust.”

Friend, what I’ve just written is not for the purpose of good or interesting information; it is for our lives to be changed.

And now, for many of you, lifting your hands during a worship service will take on new meaning – it will be a proper emotional response to the presence of the Lord – but it will also be an act of intelligent worship (worshiping the Lord with all of our minds, Mark 12:30).

Practice this spiritual discipline at all times and you’ll be amazed at how it greatly affects you – and most importantly — when you do it for the right reasons and with a right heart – God will be glorified!


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