Summary: Yes! When the Holy Spirit prompts you, and no when he (or the song) doesn’t.
Personally, I love raising my hands in worship to classic songs such as, Draw me Close, Lord I lift your name on high, Days of Elijah, and Amazing Grace. Especially when they touch on themes such as heaven, the cross, or sin. By lifting up my hands I’m effectively saying to God how much I’ve fallen and how much I’m reaching out for his strength/presence. I love it as an expression, and I’m encouraged when I see other brothers and sisters in the Lord doing it as well. And maybe I’ll throw in an amen and hallelujah when nobody’s watching. We all ought to as part of our walk regardless of age or culture.
But then there’s the opposite camp in church worship. Those who prefer being reserved and stoic in their worship. Standing is okay, clapping is usually tolerable, but hand raising is a gesture to call on the elders (to get kicked out). To be fair, there is a place for this. And many denominations are less charismatic in their worship (Anglicans, Mennonites). So we have to respect those traditions. In addition when we think about how holy God is, then entering into his presence is in some way paralyzing us to awe and be silent in reverence. We need balance as well to be still.
There’s finally another situation to consider. If you’re going through a rough season in life, there are times you cannot lift up your hands in worship. It happened to Moses, and he needed help from his fellow brothers (Exodus 17:11-12). So it is the same with us. And I do want to be sympathetic toward those in this boat. A death in the family, depression, loss of a job, marital issues, cancer, bad church experiences, all of these have a crippling affect with our worship. There is a season for everything. It takes time to heal.
But I can’t help but wonder if we never lift our hands in worship, is there something wrong with our hearts? Are we concerned with what the person next to us would think if we did such a thing? Are we allowing our depression to grip our faith so strong that we become immobilized in our worship? Are we hiding behind excuses to mask our insecurities? Or, is our passion for our Lord only knee deep?
The Bible gives strong evidence that lifting hands in worship should be encouraged. Consider Psalm 134:2 and tell me if the Jews didn’t do it:
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.
Then there’s David, a man after God’s own heart, who worshiped like there was no tomorrow (in his diapers, leaping like a gazelle) 2 Samuel 6:14-16. Sadly, there was a hater in the crowd.
Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.
16 Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
Now there has to be modesty in our dress in church, but it doesn’t cancel out the fact that there should be passion in the way we worship.
It’s not just an Old Testament concept, there’s Paul in 1 Timothy 2:8
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
Here he’s talking about prayer, and that’s the same thing – prayer and worship (are we not praying to God when we worship?), we should lift our hands in all situations! There’s no guesswork here.
There’s always room for abuse here. Jesus criticized the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 for boldly standing out claiming to praise God while the tax collector who quietly sat at the very back of the pews was to be exalted. But there’s a difference. The parable was about the attitude of the heart. The Pharisee was a show-off, the tax collector was humble. If we lift up our hands in worship to God as an act of humility, God honors that.
If you have hesitations to raise your hand during worship, I want to provide some encouragement. It is biblical and the reality is that nobody really cares. In the end, worship is between you and the Lord. It’s saying from the bottom of your heart, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner’.
After all, if we judge hand raising like the world does, we would really look like a joke and never do it.
Have any questions or concerns? Please leave a comment below.