Lifting Hands In Praise And Worship

Posted: September 4, 2010 by julesplife in Memory Book

God’s people have many ways to express their love and adoration to Him, what is important is that do so with a pure heart and intent.  Even during the Eucharistic Celebration Catholics are free to express their love by lifting their hands during the praise and adoration.  However they should also be aware when it is not appropriate to do so. egs. When the Celebrant is praying over the bread and wine or when the Priest sings the ‘Through Him, With Him, In Him….”  ( This part for instance is strictly for the Priest alone, to Sing or Say)

A Look At Worship Through Lifting hands

  • Lifting hands in worship is a common expression in the Old Testament.
    Bible descriptions of hands lifted toward God -Psalm 134:1–2; Psalm 141:2; Psalm 28:2; Nehemiah 8:6
  • The Hebrew word for hand is the word yad; yadah means to “throw out the hand” or to worship with extended hands.
  • The hands were so much a part of Old Testament worship that the word hand became part of the word for praising God.
  • Lifting hands in worship is a common expression in the New Testament.
    -1 Timothy 2:8
  • The last image of Jesus was of Him lifting his hands in blessing as he ascended.
    -Luke 24:50–51
  • Lifting the hands is a symbol of surrender.
  • Lifting the hands is a symbol of trust.
  • Lifting the hands is a symbol of openness.
  • Lifting the hands is a symbol of affection.
    -Does this mean that in order to worship we must lift our hands? No.
  • The lifting of the hands is not coerced; it is permitted.

Below are some examples and explanations I’ve found :-

1. RECEIVE. (Two-handed; hands raised, palms facing inward). This is the posture some Charismatic friends will probably prefer—a posture of receiving—“God, respond to me, touch me, give me, speak to me, fill me.”  It is a posture for receiving from God a touch, a work of grace, or a gift.    A person kneeling at the altar might be encouraged to raise both hands to receive from God the work they were seeking.  Or to say, “I want to receive from You, Lord.”  It seems most appropriate when singing prayer choruses like “Fill me now” or “Purify my heart.”

2.  STAND-IN-AWE. (Two-handed hands raised, palms facing outward).  The same as the receive posture only with palms reversed—facing outward.  It is an ancient custom still practiced in other religions and cultures.  The worshipper falls to his or her knees, raises hands with palms facing outward, then bows down forward before the god or king.   When used in praise today the falling-to-the-knees part is usually truncated.   The praise and worship movement has popularized stand-in-awe music and this posture has become an expression of extravagant nothing-held-back praise to God.  This posture seem most appropriate when singing songs that mentally locate God on His throne and we are facing that throne.  This would include many of the 1980’s and 90’s praise songs but also older songs like “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

3. SURRENDER. (Same as above—two handed hands raised, palms facing outward).  Though this posture is the exact posture of the stand-in-awe gesture, holiness camp meeting folk used it for a different reason.  The almost-universal expression of surrender is either a white flag or this one: hands raised with palms facing outward.  “I give up.”  Thus the holiness movement, with its emphasis on a “total consecration” and surrender, often used the double-hands-raised posture as a physical action to represent absolute surrender to God.  While this earlier use has largely been replaced by the stand-in-awe use it is still a useful symbolic gesture.  Here is a good example of how gestures shift over time to gain new meaning as old means are discarded.  The surrender posture was especially appropriate with songs like “I surrender all” or “Take my life and let it be,” but it is used more infrequently today for this meaning—the actions now mean I am standing-in-awe more often.

4. TESTIMONY. (One hand raised, palm facing outward). The culture uses this posture when we “swear in” a witness (i.e.I swear to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth…”).  The church has used it as a testimony-witness posture.  To raise one hand during singing a song says, “I agree” or, “I testify this is true in my life.”  In a sense this quiet hand raising is a non-verbal “amen.”  It seems especially appropriate as a personal response during a song like, “It is well with my soul.”

This next section written by Jon is Hilarious

To me it seems that the various postures do have meaning and thus we should be free to use them when the lyrics of the song fit.  Doesn’t that make sense?  Or am I missing something here?

There are some topics that require more than just a remix. Like prayer for instance, I could write a dozen posts on that because it’s so interesting.

So when my wife leaned over to me at church and said, “People sure do have different styles when it comes to singing with their hands raised,” I knew I had to cover the topic at least one more time. I had to, like Jane Goodall in the jungle, step inside the world of hand raising and report what I found. I did and here, after deep scientific study in the field of sarcasmology, are the 10 styles of hand raising I encountered, starting with the least extreme to the most extreme:

1. The Ninja
You are tricky sir, truly, you are tricky. This guy is testing the waters. He sees ladies near him that throw their arms in the air at the first hint of a Chris Tomlin song but he’s not so sure. I mean, what if his friends see him? He used to make fun of people that did that. So instead of going all out, he does a fancy little move. He puts his hands by his pants pockets and just flips them over with his palms facing the heavens. From behind, you can’t see that he is doing anything out of the ordinary and from the front it just looks like he is cupping his hands slightly as if to show you what was in his pockets.

2. The Half & Half
This person often wants to sing with both hands raised, but they go to a conservative church and don’t want to be known as “that guy.” So instead of singing with both hands up, they hold one in the air and put one in their pocket or on the chair in front of them. It’s like half their body is saying, “YAY JESUS!!!!” and the other half is saying, “Nothing to see here folks, move it along please, move it along.”

3. The Single Hand Salute
This is the cousin of the half & half but is different in it’s level of intensity. Instead of just kind of floating in the air, the hand you have up goes out straight at an angle, as if you are saluting some visiting military dignitary. It’s possible this move was first instilled in people when they were young with the song, “God’s Army.”

4. The Elevator
This one technically marks our transition into multi-hand motions. In this move, you act like there is a rule against having both hands raised at the same exact time. So you start rotating your arms. As soon as one arm comes down, the other arm goes up. It’s kind of an awkward dance move, but works pretty well when set to “Blessed be the Name.”

5. The Pound Cake
This is what we in the industry, of hand raising in case you were wondering, refer to as an “underhand move.” Instead of sticking your arms out, you hold them with your palms facing the sky as if you are ready to receive something from someone in front of you. In the pound cake, your elbows should be at stomach level, with your hands tilted at a 47 degree angle as if someone visiting your house warming party is about to hand you a delicious pound cake. It’s not a heavy cake, so you don’t have to brace yourself, but can instead just relax and think, “hey cool, pound cake. Let me take that for you.”

6. The Tickler
It’s getting serious now. The tickler is the person that sticks their arms out horizontally as if they were trying to make a big T with their body. This is a fine move except that because we’re all sitting so close, they inevitably bump into you with their hands. So while you try to sing along with the chorus, you can’t help but giggle as they, lost in a moment of blissful worship, accidentally tickle you.

7. The Double High Five
I am very stingy with my high fives. I think the last time I gave one was in the delivery room of my second daughter. The next time I give one will be if I get a book deal. Other than those two situations, I find the high five to be the physical version of using a lot of exclamation marks!!! That’s why I rarely do this move. The double high five looks exactly like it sounds. You act like you’ve just scored a goal in soccer/football and are about to double high five the person in front of you. (Some people call this move the “Secret passageway” because it kind of looks like you are feeling along a wall for a hidden button that will open a secret door. But I’m a purist and don’t use that term.)

8. The Huge Watermelon
This is like the pound cake on steroids. In this move, your arms are held higher and with a considerable about of dedication and determination. It’s still an underhand move, but now, instead of a light and fluffy cake, someone on a truck is handing down a huge watermelon to you. Better get ready, that thing looks heavy.

9. The Helicopter Rail
At this point, both arms are raised high in the air. This is professional hand raiser territory we’re in. Please don’t try to do this at home. With this one, you reach your arms out, way over your head but out in front of your body. Imagine if you were stuck on a piece of driftwood and a shark with a laser on its head was about to get you and you had to desperately reach out for the rail of a helicopter that was attempting to rescue you. Stretch, stretch, you gotta want it.

10. The YMCA
This is my favorite and probably most common hand raising technique. It’s not complicated. Much like the famous song, you simply raise your hands above your body and form a big Y. That’s all, but it leaves little doubt to the folks around you what is going on. You’re worshipping. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s messy and it’s great.

Although I tend to be a pound cake kind of guy, I like when people raise their hands. This is the second time I have written about it. My friend said that when her mom did it, it always looked like she was clearing a runway for God to land. I think that’s pretty cool and hope to one day work my way up to at least mastering the huge watermelon.

  1. Chris Carlo says:

    This is hilarious and informative. Thank you

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