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Raising Holy Hands

Yesterday I wrote about 1 Timothy 2:8 being the inspiration for the song ‘Unchanging’ which includes the lyrics ‘so we raise up holy hands / to praise the holy One / Who was and is and is to come.” I said that this verse cannot be used to prove that we are given license to raise our hands while we sing for two reasons. First, the context of the verse shows that it applies specifically to men and second, it speaks of prayer, not singing.

Since I posted that there has been a bit of discussion in the forum about raising hands in worship and I thought I would post a few thoughts on that.

I will start by stating that I have never had a real problem with people raising hands during singing. There was a time when I was encouraged to try it out and was told that it made the experience of worship more intimate. I was told that raising hands to God was similar to the act of a child reaching out to hold his father’s hand. So I thought about trying it, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that there was no way I could do it without it being very artificial. Though others may not have noticed this, I knew that I would be so self-conscious of what I was doing that it could not be a real act of worship.

The questions I would ask about raising hands in worship are:

  1. Why? Why do you want to raise your hands during music? What does it mean to you? Is it merely learned behavior or does it really have a profound meaning to you?
  2. When? When do you raise your hands? The Bible tells men to raise their hands in prayer? Are you able to raise your hands during prayer or only when the music is playing? Worship is more than music, so shouldn’t you also be able to raise your hands during the reading of the Word, during preaching and during the sacraments? Further to this question, are there certain songs that make you raise your hands while others do not? If so, why?
  3. Where? Where is the Scriptural proof that we are given license to do so? As a Reformed Protestant I always hold the Bible as the plumb line. If it does not line up with Scripture I can’t support it.

I know that there are many reasons people raise their hands. In some churches various gestures carry specific meanings. For example, two hands raised with palms turned inward is a posture of surrender whereas two hands raised with palms turned outward is a posture of receiving (as in receiving God’s blessing). Because hand-raising can have different meanings depending on who does it and how they do it, I guess there will be different ways of justifying the act.

So are you a hand-raiser? Were you a hand-raiser? Let’s discuss this a little bit’


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