Holy Hands--by Timothy A. Southall
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In our congregations today, some think it is embarrassing, un-Christ-like, or even disgraceful for someone to raise or spread their hands during prayer or worship. Yet, in the Bible, God's holy Word, many righteous people raised or spread their hands to God. Let's look at the scriptures.

In the Old Testament, we can see that Solomon, Ezra, Job, David, and Jeremiah were among those who raised holy hands. Solomon lifted his hands and changed positions during prayer. He began by standing and ended his prayer on his knees (1 Kings 8:22; 1 Kings 8:54). In Solomon's prayer of dedication (1 Kings 8:22-61), he prayed that the Israelites' prayers would come from their hearts and that they would spread their hands toward the temple (1 Kings 8:38). Many others also worshiped this way. Ezra fell on his knees and spread his hands out to the Lord (Ezra 9:5). Then, when Ezra praised the Lord, all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" (Nehemiah 8:6 NIV). Zophar the Naamathite advised Job to devote his heart to God and spread his hands to God (Job 11:13). In Psalms, raising one's hands to God is mentioned several times (Psalm 28:2; Psalm 63:4; Psalm 77:2; Psalm 88:9; Psalm 119:48; Psalm 134:2; Psalm 141:2; Psalm 143:6). Jeremiah told the Israelites to plead and lift up their hands to the Lord because of what they had done (Lamentations 2:19; Lamentations 3:41).

In the New Testament, Paul teaches, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing."(1 Timothy 2:8 NIV)

If lifting and spreading of one's hands is acceptable in not only the Old Testament but also in the New Testament, then why are so many against it today? A Christian should never tell another not to lift hands in prayer or worship. To do so is actually passing judgment upon one's brother or sister in Christ, and this is clearly wrong (Romans 14:9-13; James 4:11-12).

Now let's turn our focus upon the motive behind raising one's hands toward God. And motive is vitally important. The individual raising his hands should ask himself why he is doing it. Is it an act to be seen before others so that he might be praised or gain attention? (Matthew 6:5) Is it to give the appearance that he is better or more righteous than others? (Philippians 2:3) Or is his raising hands the expression of his deep, heartfelt worship to God?

Throughout the Bible, it is clear that hands are to be lifted to God in prayer and worship only if it is the expression of what one feels in his heart. Therefore, to lift one's hands or not to lift one's hands is a personal decision which should not be infringed upon by others.

Copyright © 1999 Timothy A. Southall.  All rights reserved.