Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hands Raised High

Hey Friend,

To grasp the significance of this post, you need to understand my background.  I was raised in a very staunch, conservative, Presbyterian church.  The church, itself, was absolutely beautiful in its cathedral style with vibrant stained glass windows and towering arches.  When it came to "warmth" of the service, however, let us just say you could practically ice skate down the aisles.  We jokingly referred to ourselves as the "frozen chosen". 

Don't get me wrong, I don't pretend that one size fits all when it comes to worship.  That's why there are so many different styles of worship because God reaches us all in different ways.  That being said, I remember the first time I went to a contemporary, non-denominational service with a friend, and horror of all horrors; these people actually raised their hand or worse yet two hands during the singing portion of worship.  I remember thinking...weirdos - must be religious zealots.  It's all a show. I would never be caught dead doing that!

Famous last words!  I have been attending contemporary, non-denominational services for at least twenty years and, you guessed it, I am moved at certain times; as the Holy Spirit moves in me, to raise my hand(s) during worship.  Yes, I am officially one of those people (gasp).  I can't remember exactly when it first happened, but I do remember that the feeling that came over me was so strong and I felt the words so passionately in my heart that I couldn't help but raise my hands in praise to my Father in Heaven.

But, I have learned, I am in good company.  Holding up one's hand in prayer and adoration began as early as Exodus in the Bible.  In Exodus 9:29 Moses replied, " When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord."  God even commanded Moses to  stretch out his hand toward the sky. 

David, in the Psalms (songs) lifts his hands many times in various forms of prayer.  He lifts them in praise, obedience, lament, surrender, sacrifice, grief, blessing and much more. 

Let me just share with you some scriptures that speak to the many reasons why Christians around the globe lift their hands during worship:

Praise:  "Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands."  (Psalm 63:3-4)

Sacrifice:  "May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice."  (Psalm 141:2)

Blessing:  "Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord."  (Psalm 134:2)

Lament or Grief: "Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!  Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street."  (Lamentations 2:19)

Obedience:  "I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes."  (Psalm 119:48)

I could go on and on, but that's just a sampling.  Even the posture of our hands says something about the state of our heart.  When my children were little, they would hold out little dimpled hands and reach for me with a "language of the hands" that said "Hold me - I need comforting".  When they did that, I naturally picked them up and held them...much like our Heavenly Father does with us and He comforts us with His words..."I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you."  (John 14-18)

One of my favorite songs sung by Hillsong is "Forever Reign".  The lyrics go:

Oh, I'm running to your arms

I'm running to your arms
The riches of Your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to your embrace
Light of the world forever reign
I picture myself, arms outstretched, running into the warm embrace of my Abba - my Daddy.
Sometimes my hands are in a posture of surrender.  They say, "I quit...I give up...I lay my burdens upon your altar, Lord."  Like Jesus I say, "Not my will, but yours be done."  Worship in music very often brings me to a place of utter surrender. I raise my white flag and I surrender to God.
My point here is not to convince you to raise your hands during worship, but to help you understand why some people do.  It's usually not a conscious just happens.
The Lord has been so very good to me.  He has seen me through so many trials.  He has never let the water sweep over me.  Though I swim in the depths, I never drown. 
But even when I begin to drown, I raise my hands unto the Lord and He lovingly picks me up and places my feet on dry ground!