I was probably about 12 years old. We were on our way home from church, and my cousin, who was visiting from out of town, had attended the service with us. Her church background was very different from mine, so the question she posed during our car ride home should not have surprised me, but it did. Sitting in the back seat next to me, she asked, “What does THIS mean?” and raised her hand.
Having grown up in a church where hand-raising during worship was a common occurrence, I didn’t understand her confusion. I hadn’t realized that the sight of people with their hands in the air during service was a new experience for her.
I wonder how many others have the same question, but they’ve never asked. Not just children, either. How many adults aren’t really sure what all this hand-raising is about? Maybe you’ve heard of it, seen others in church doing it, or even tried it yourself – but aren’t sure what the point is.
If you’ve ever pondered my cousin’s question, let me try to shed some light on the answer – with some more questions to consider:
- What does a person look like when they surrender?
- What do people often do when they are excited about something?
- If I hold out a gift for you, what must you do to receive it?
- What do people often do when they experience a victory?
- What do children do when they want to be held?
Humility. Praise. Celebration. Connection. Surrender. Worship. Excitement. Victory. Adoration.
There are many meanings to this simple act of raising one’s hands. It helps us express a variety of emotions and thoughts in a physical way.
The same is true when we use this posture to communicate with the Lord.
Do you want to surrender to God? Are you celebrating the victory you have in Christ? Do you simply need to be held by your Father? Is your heart filled to the measure with all the fullness of God, and you simply need to do SOMETHING physical to express it?
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2
Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8
My prayer is set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4