Why I Raise My Hands in Worship
I remember clearly being in a Bible College class titled, “Christian Worship.” Each student was given access to a list of topics, and we each had to choose one to prepare a 20 minute presentation to give to the class. I remember looking at the list, and seeing “Body Language in Worship” as one of the topics. I was very interested in hearing a different student’s presentation on the topic, but was thankful that I’d arrived at the list early enough to have other choices!
I didn’t think about it anymore, until the day when the unlucky student had to present his presentation on the topic. He had been one of the last students to get to the list, and all the other topics had been chosen, forcing him to choose it.
He was a (former) farmer of Dutch extraction in his late 40s, and he shared with us at the outset that he had never in his life raised his hands in worship. He also shared that no-one in his church did it either. He was not a hipster, and was a quiet and introverted man. Body language in worship was a totally new concept for him.
He then proceeded to argue… pretty convincingly, that when we worship God, we often ought to lift our hands. It was shocking to me, because the message was coming from the most unlikely of sources. If it had been anyone else, it is likely that their message would not have impacted me as strongly as it did. But because the messenger was (like Jonah), sharing what they believed to be the truth, despite their personal feelings pushing them in a different direction, it deeply affected me.
I was not a “hand-raiser” before hearing his presentation, but afterwards, I became one, in large part because I trusted that the messenger had no agenda.
I’d love to share a few of the things he said that influenced my thinking on the matter. Regardless of whether you are a hand-raiser or not, I look forward to worshipping our Glorious Saviour King this Sunday with you.
- Body language is the outward expression of inner feelings.
- At a footy game, when a team scores, everyone cheering for them leaps to their feet, almost involuntarily. Our worship should reflect society’s body language norms. Body language, like spoken language, is a way of communicating what is in our hearts.
- Our worship is for God alone, not to make ourselves look like good Christians.
- Hypocrisy is offensive to God, and ought to be avoided. Fake body language in worship is just as bad as fake spoken language in worship.
- Each person will honour God differently. We should not look down on someone for raising their hands, or for not raising their hands.
- We are not trying to whip ourselves into a frenzy like the pagans do, but rather give God the honour and glory that he is rightfully due. Sometimes, it might be appropriate to give him honour via our body language as well as our spoken (or sung) language.
- The subjective experience of emotion is not the point of raising hands. The point is to glorify God with our body, as well as our words.
- The Scriptures say that our worship services ought to be dignified, not undignified, so there are forms of body language which are not appropriate in a church setting.
- Scripture speaks of clapping, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, dancing, standing in awe and worship with our entire bodies.
- Bob Kauflin, Director of Sovereign Grace Music, says, “While heart worship is most important, what we do with our bodies isn’t irrelevant or unimportant. It’s not enough to say, “I’m worshipping God in my heart and he knows it.” If I told my wife, Julie, that I loved her, but never looked glad to see her, never hugged her, and never demonstrated my affection in any concrete way, she wouldn’t be too impressed.”