As we worship week after week, it is important that we stop and consider what we are doing. One of the commands of Scripture is to worship with understanding (Ps. 47:7), and this means that we are not only to understand why we worship, but also why we worship the way we do. One of the actions that we perform every week is the action of raising our hands. The men who lead in prayer are encouraged to raise their hands, we all raise our hands together in song following the declaration of forgiveness, and the minister raises his hands, symbolically laying his hands upon the congregation to give you a blessing. Throughout the Psalms there are repeated commands to lift up hands in prayer, to stretch out hands in worship and supplication seeking the blessing of God. Jeremiah exhorts the exiles to lift up their hands and cry aloud to God for mercy. Isaiah assumes that when you pray, you pray with lifted hands because he condemns the people for raising up hands with blood on them, and James seems to have this in mind when he exhorts his readers to draw near to God with cleansed hands and hearts. Likewise Paul exhorts Timothy to have men who lead their congregations in prayer lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting. We’re here to plead with God, to stretch out our hands to heaven, to give him all that we are, and to plead with him to be gracious to us. When Solomon prays the prayer of dedication for the temple he prays, “whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act” (1 Kgs. 8:37-39). Likewise in Nehemiah, the people were gathered together to renew covenant, and the text tells us that men and women and all those who could understand were gathered together to hear the Word of the Lord read, and when the reading was finished all of the people responded by shouting “Amen! Amen!” with lifted hands and then they bowed themselves to the ground and worshipped. So don’t just put your hands in the air. Don’t just perform this action as though it’s just the next thing we do. As we raise our hands, we are saying ‘Amen!’ to the action of God’s forgiveness. We are lifting them toward one who is greater than the temple. We lift them to the one who hears our prayers and sees our hands. So cleanse your hands now as you prepare to draw near the Most Holy Place. Cleanse your hands that you might lift up your hands and hearts to the God of heaven and earth.
Leave a Reply