By Hannah Brzozowski
When it comes to church worship worlds, I grew up with one foot in both. I was a part of a Baptist church (pretty stoic) with my family on Sundays and then during the week, I went to an Assemblies of God school, which was Pentecostal (dancing and raising hands). They were basically polar opposites during services.
So, when it came to raising hands or any type of expression, it was rare to see anyone at my Baptist church (except maybe that one lady that everyone stared at) but at chapel that same week, the worship leader would encourage everyone in the room to lift their hands. Since I’m a rule-follower, I complied. But it didn’t really mean much because I didn’t understand it.
Later on, I decided on my own to raise my hands in worship. And it really did help me feel closer to God.
But why do we do it? Is it some sort of magic trick to get God to give us goosebumps? Is he just waiting up in heaven for us to lift up our hands and then he comes down and suddenly appears in a white robe on a cloud? Is it just an emotional experience that doesn’t matter in the long run?
Today, I hope to bring some clarity to you if you’ve ever wondered why we, as Christians, lift up our hands during worship.
It helps you to be vulnerable.
When you think of someone lifting up their hands, they are physically vulnerable. Typically their eyes are closed and with their hands up, someone could easily come up and punch them in the stomach. Now, as far as I know, that hasn’t happened in a church service (I hope not, at least!). But, I think it still says something. When your hands are up, you are vulnerable and you are trusting God to protect you in life.
You are also telling everyone around you that you are having an experience with God. If you're some big tough person, that might be hard to admit. It's ok to have emotions. God gave them to you so don't be afraid to express them to the one who gave them to you.
It helps you surrender.
If you watch any Law and Order episode (trust me, I’ve seen every *single* SVU episode), you will see this. When Olivia Benson finally catches the bad guys, they drop the gun or knife and will lift up their hands. What are they doing in that moment? They are surrendering to the police. They, at that moment, are trusting that the police will take them in safely. Similarly, when you lift your hands, you are telling God, “I know your plans are better than mine, God. You are in control, not me.”
It will help you engage your body and your mind.
As humans, we can easily get distracted or start to zone out. I’ve found that lifting my hands in worship helps me to keep my mind focused on God. By having my whole body involved in worship, it becomes an act of worship, instead of just something happening in my mind. I’ve found myself pacing or dancing during worship too. All of these things help me to keep my brain focused on Jesus, instead of the world around me.
Look at the Bible.
Lifting hands is not something that’s new to the Christian faith. It’s been around since the beginning. From Job to Paul, we see raising of hands throughout God’s word.
Check out these verses for just a few examples.
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, 1 Kings 8:22
At the time of the sacrifice, I stood up from where I had sat in mourning with my clothes torn. I fell to my knees and lifted my hands to the Lord my God. Ezra 9:5
When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. Psalm 77:2
Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary. Psalm 28:2
My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O Lord; I lift my hands to you for mercy. Psalm 88:9
Lift your hands toward the sanctuary, and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2
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
A challenge to those who haven't raised their hands:
So, have you ever raised your hands in worship? If you haven’t tried it, why not? Maybe this is a step in your faith that God is calling you to do.
A challenge to those who have raised their hands:
If you have, do you know why you’re doing it? Just like everything we do in our faith, we should know the why behind the what. Do you do it just be seen? When you worship by yourself, do you raise your hands too? Or do you just do it in front of people? Worship should never be about us. It should always be about God.
You know where a great place to worship is? At Anchor on the second Sunday of the month. We'd love for you to come. We meet at 2901 Watterson Ct, Champaign, IL.