Raising Hands in Church a Distraction? One Pastor’s Perspective

Raising Hands in Church a Distraction? One Pastor’s Perspective October 30, 2013

My post Why I Don’t Raise My Hands in Your Church may have had some readers doubting that any Christians could possibly have a problem with a practice that has become standard worship procedure in worship — raising hands.

Let me stress, I don’t have a problem — provided our focus is on worshipping God sincerely in Spirit and truth and not on conforming to external pressures.

I thought one pastor’s perspective on this issue was worth discussing as it represents a significant corner of conservative Evangelical thinking on the subject.  He didn’t request anonymity when giving permission to share these thoughts, but I’ve chosen to keep it anonymous in order to keep the focus on the topic. So here is his perspective  as shared with his congregation:

Why We Don’t Raise Our Hands in Our Church

  1. It is not necessarily a bad practice.  I mean, after all, it is mentioned in the Bible so you wouldn’t think it could be a sin to raise your hands when praising God.  The only problem may be if somehow the raising of hands done today is done with a wrong motive or as a result of inappropriate motivation.  I have seen people in our church raise their hands at times and have never reprimanded them or lectured them on any perceived “evils of hand raising.”
  2. It’s contemporary reintroduction.  This is kind of interesting.  You won’t find too much about people raising their hands in the past 20 centuries.  As far as I know, John Calvin, Martin Luther, or any of the reformers never practiced hand raising.  The Puritans or Anabaptists, Baptists or any of the early mainline denominations didn’t practice this ancient tradition.  The only New Testament reference (that I can remember) about raising hands isn’t in worship but in prayer (1 Tim. 2:8) and it is for men only!  The emphasis in this text is more on their holiness than their posture.  So, a key question to ask is: If Jesus and the apostles do not mention it and we can’t find anything in recent history about it, then how did it suddenly become an issue?  The main reason, as I see it, is that the charismatic movement with its revamped culture has reintroduced it.  Of course they can claim it is because the Bible teaches it, but is it possible they started the practice … and then decided to find support for it from Scripture later?
  3. It may be more of a cultural practice than a command.  Apparently, in David’s era they lifted their hands in worship, but in later times (NT era) they didn’t.  When in Rome . . . (or in Jerusalem during ancient times).
  4. It seems to be properly categorized as a posture.  I would agree with the statement that it is a posture.  It should also be noted that it is not the only posture for worship.  A parallel may help to see this matter.  The command for prayer is given frequently in the Bible.  The exact posture for prayer may vary.  Kneeling is one such posture, laying prostrate is another.  But to say someone is wrong to pray without kneeling or prostrating themselves is wrong.  You may pray without ever kneeling and not sin.  I suspect the lifting of hands has a symbolic meaning of humility and begging, although that symbolism is not clarified in Scripture (to my knowledge).  But the key is in the heart.  One may lift their hands without having the least bit humility.  Furthermore, one may sing or pray without kneeling or raising their hands and yet have the most humble and begging heart possible.  God looks at our hearts more than our posture.
  5. It tends to be more of a distraction than a positive contribution to corporate worship.  Especially in our church where lifting the hands is not a common practice, it tends to be more of a distraction, a drawing attention to the worshipper more than to God.  They may certainly be sincere and well meaning, but if it is not a normal practice in that worship setting, it is better not to practice it then.  It is my observation that some people actually do it more for show than for genuine worship.  I know that sounds SO JUDGMENTAL!  But if you took a poll to find out how many of those people do the same at home in their private worship, I am confident the numbers would be significantly decreased.  If someone only raises their hands in worship when other people are around then who are they doing it for?  On the other side of the issue, I routinely kneel in my private prayer time at home but rarely kneel in a public worship service.  Why?  Because I do not want that particular posture to become a distraction in the public worship service.

 What do you think? Is this an area of Christian liberty in which we should carefully consider brothers and sisters around us? Is hand raising a biblical practice that should be a part of our worship repertoire today or is it a distraction to be shut down? Leave comment below with your thoughts.

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