LIFTING UP HANDS
by Wayne S. Walker
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD (Psalm 134:2). The Bible makes many references to the lifting up of hands. Concerning this verse, Charles H. Spurgeon, who says that the Psalm was an exhortation by the returning pilgrims to arouse the priests to pronounce a blessing upon them and thus teaches us to pray for those who are continually ministering before the Lord, wrote, In the holy place they must be busy, full of strength, wide-awake, energetic, and moved with holy ardour. Hands, heart, and every part of their manhood must be upraised, elevated, and consecrated to the adoring service of the Lord. As the angels praise God day without night, so must the angels of the churches be instant in season and out of season.
I have heard, though I cannot confirm it, that the lifting up of hands was a common motion of greeting to show that one did not have any weapons. We have all probably seen some movie or television show where the police are bearing down on someone who immediately holds his hands up to show that he is not armed or will not take any retaliatory action. Somehow, it must have become a custom associated with worship. Spurgeon quoted Samuel Eyles Pierce who said, The lifting up of the hands was a gesture in prayer, it was an intimation of their expectation of receiving blessings from the Lord, and it was also an acknowledgment of their having received the same.
In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul wrote, I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In many denominational worship services, it is common to see people holding up their hands and swaying during prayer and even singing. As in the washing of feet by Jesus in John 13 and the holy kiss of Romans 16:16, the thing being commanded here is not the action itself but the attitude that it representsholiness, having nothing of an ulterior nature behind us. If for whatever reason a person might choose to hold up his hands in prayer, one would be hard pressed to say that it is unscriptural, but there is no passage of scripture which teaches that it is necessary or that one sins without doing it. Rather, he must spiritually lift up holy hands by coming to God in an attitude of humility.