Why We Don't... Raise Our Hands

by Peter Swann

In my most recent blog in this “Why We Don’t” series, I covered the topic of singing. This time I’d like to hit a related topic: why we don’t raise our hands.

The answer may appear obvious – some of us just don’t prefer to raise our hands. I get that for sure. I used to be in that camp. But I’d like to suggest there may be more to the story.

I wonder if there isn’t more value to lifting our hands than we generally think. Raising of hands is not required, but it can be a meaningful part of personal and corporate worship. It’s also evident in the Scriptures, like in Psalm 63:4, 134:2, and 141:2.

Besides the Scriptural examples, it’s also all over our culture. When we celebrate, what do we do? Stand up, yell, and raise our hands. And if anything in life is worth celebrating, Jesus and the gospel are worth celebrating. It’s striking to me that we celebrate college football with a biblical example that we might not celebrate our Savior with.

Given that, here are some reflections as to why we might not raise our hands:

1. We don’t see the value.

Raising of hands may feel optional to us, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s without value. Eating fruit is optional, but there’s great value in it. When it comes to raising hands, it’s a biblical (and cultural) expression of something of great worth.

2. It doesn’t feel right.

If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because we didn’t grow up with it. Our church tradition, or our perception of a stoic God, may trump the idea of lifting our hands. But in Scripture, lifting of hands conveys honor, praise, and reverence. It is a deep act of worship.

3. We worry about what people think.

When you aren’t used to raising your hands, you can feel self-conscious about it. That’s understandable. But lifting of hands communicates to God that you identify with the words you are singing and that you are worshiping Him with your lips and with your whole self. It conveys that you care about worship of your King more than what anyone else thinks of you.

As a kid, I didn’t grow up in a church culture with raising of hands in worship. But when I got saved, I started doing it in personal worship if not in corporate worship. As I became an adult, I eventually gained the courage to begin lifting my hands. It profoundly impacted my worship. When I lift my hands in worship, I think it’s the closest I probably experience to what my worship in heaven might look like.

This blog isn’t intended to force lifting hands, it’s an invitation… to greater freedom in worship, to more enjoyment of your King, and to a deeper expression of how you love Him with all that you have. He gave all for us, and we get to symbolically reflect that right back to Him.