I have seen and really enjoy the picture of all the different hand raises and their funny nicknames. “Big Screen TV”, “Field Goal”, “Bigger Screen TV”, etc. My point here is not to tell you which formation is my favorite, the most Biblical, or anything like that. It is solely to give reasons for why I raise my hands during worship and why I invite you to do the same. First off, let me give you some background.
I grew up in the South with parents who raised me in the Southern Baptist Church. Yes, all of the stereotypes are based on realities. Fried chicken was a typical Wednesday night meal at church, complete with the Italian cut green beans and the sweet tea that only comes out of church kitchens. I watched Veggie Tales and Psalty and around Christmas, I was always involved in the Christmas production. The thing that I probably disliked about church the most was the music IN my grandparents’ church.
Now, one set of my grandparents were members of the same church family that my parents and I were a part of. Our church had the traditional service early on Sunday with a contemporary service afterwards. My other grandparents were members of another church. My dad had grown up there and even knew many of the people whenever we visited. It was pretty traditional with lots of organ, orchestra, and hymns.
What I did not like about hymns is how bored everyone seemed to be when we sang them. Everyone, except the music pastor who was conducting the congregation, was holding the pew in front of them as they sang. Many people’s expressions were about the same as you see at a TSA screening station where the people do the same thing all day. Zero excitement, enthusiasm, etc.
As I grew up, I came to realize that people in the Bible were not this way. They were pretty amped on who God is and that He loves us. David ran around the cities like he won the world cup because of his joy! I also learned that worship is not just singing songs of praise. Romans 12:1 is almost overly used in student ministries, but it taught me what true worship is. It says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul continues this same teaching, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
So worship is living life in a manner that is pleasing to God and sacrificing your own selfishness in exchange for Him.
Here’s where arm raising comes in. I began noticing in youth groups and camps that people would raise their arms up during the music. The first time I saw it, I think I was looking for the police to see who was getting arrested. Because that’s about the only time that you see people do this. Raising your hands up is a universal sign of surrender. So we can raise our hands as an expression to God, “God, I surrender to you.”
This is not the only reason I raise my hands.
I actually have a few reasons. The first reason is this previous one, a symbol of surrender. This is the most popular reason I have heard taught, but I also have other reasons.
In my family, I have a little brother who is now five years old. Yes, all the girls go “Awwww”. I know. When he was younger, he would run over to me or my dad and reach his arms up in order to say, “Pick me up.” This is the second reason that I will raise my hands to God. Sometimes I just go to the Lord with an expression of “Father, pick me up. I need you to hold me.” Jesus, talking about His flock (The Church), said in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Between these two hands, I know that we are secure, but sometimes I just need Him to remind me through The Comforter aka the Holy Spirit.
My third reason is summer. Summer is my favorite time of the year because it is hot. I love hot weather and despise all of this winter we’ve had. In the summer, I will go outside and just soak up the Sun. People do this because they love basking in the radiance of the Sun. Similarly, I love to spread my arms just to bask in how good God is, His love toward us and expose as much of myself as I can. This is a physical symbol for an inward expression.
My fourth reason is easily seen in the popular show The Walking Dead. Zombies are always hungry and looking for where they can get together and eat. Sounds almost like Southern Baptists (BAZINGA!). The Walking Dead recently had a promotion they did where they set up a special grate in the sidewalks of New York City and had people dress up as zombies. When someone would walk over the grate, they would reach up and grasp at the person and make their zombie noises. Of course, this makes for a really funny video that you can watch below. It’s not that these zombies want a hug, but rather they are reaching for what they desire. Zombies desire to eat flesh, but as a Christian my desire is for the Lord. When I focus on that during worship music, sometimes I reach out toward God because He is my desire and I long for Him. A zombie is absolutely fixated on one thing, eating. Therefore it reaches for the object of its affection as if to take hold of it. Sometimes I feel a similar desire to reach out and grab a hold of the Lord as I am truly desperate for Him to fill me.
My final reason is that sometimes I desire to literally lift Him up. Since I cannot literally do this, I raise my hands as if I were holding Him up. I know there is nothing I can do that would exalt Him higher than what the Bible says that God did (Acts 2:32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”), but I do want to be making His name known in my life and I try to express this desire in my praise.
These reasons are not usually simultaneous for me, but I’m sure there are other reasons that other believers raise their hands. I don’t think that raising your hands is necessary to praise God as we sing, but I hope that our heart is as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:8, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling”. Therefore, let us examine our hearts before worship and repent of all sin so that we may raise holy hands to our God as we sing our prayers to Him.
Why do you/don’t you raise your hands?