Our hands are worker bees, did you know that? Regardless of our life role, hands make life happen. They wash you, dress you, pick up items, type words, open doors, pet the dog/cat, pick up babies of all ages, make dinner, clean things, hug people, wave, catch, open books. Hands are the action verbs in our daily lives.
They are cleverly attached to our wrists so we won’t lose them. When we use them, they send important signals to our brains that help us sense touch, pain and textures. And yet, we don’t give our hands too much thought or importance until they are hurt or harmed and we can no longer use them.
Why do you suppose we take our hands for granted? They are crucial to everything we do.
We only have two hands yet they can be considered our most critical appendages. There are numerous Scripture verses that describe the significant jobs our hands have to accomplish. The most influential tasks our hands have are to give and receive.
The earliest recorded account of what is expected of our hands is recorded in Lamentations 3:41,
“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven”
Why do you think we are instructed to do that? What have we to give or receive through empty hands? We only have our purest form of praise and worship to give. We receive His Holy Spirit in return.
Our word worship derives from the Old English weordhscipe meaning “worthiness or meritoriousness and thus giving God the recognition He deserves.” Webster’s Dictionary,1828, defines it as “Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission”.
If lifting our hands is honoring God with extravagant love, extreme submission and giving Him the recognition He deserves, I would think we all would want to keep our hands lifted up as often as we could. Especially in church worship.
My mom has spoken of her Holy Spirit experiences. While I wasn’t there to witness her encounters, I have heard her awe-inspiring stories. There were two significant things I took away those conversations.
If I want to receive the Holy Spirit in worship I should:
1) Always pray with uncrossed feet/legs/arms, closed eyes and open hands and heart,
2) Don’t hesitate to open my hands and lift them high to the Lord in praise and thanksgiving, especially in worship.
When we sing in church and I see congregation members or my mom raise their holy hands to the Lord, I become overwhelmed with emotion immediately. I find that I cannot sing out loud because I am suddenly overcome with the Holy Spirit and my soul has been rendered bare. My soul cries out in small, wet utterings through my tear ducts that leave me viscerally exposed. And the big congregation is diminished to just me and God in a crowd of hundreds as I become emotionally laid prostrate before my Abba Father. Every. Time.
Ironically, it happened today in service. Only our worship leader didn’t raise his hands, he closed his eyes. The gentle passion on his face, the radiant love that shone from his countenance, the smile he wore like a soft, worn blanket as he sang an old hymn caused my eyes to flood with the Holy Spirit through salty droplets.
His eyes closed so his soul could open wide. Hands lifted high in praise opened our souls wide, causing us to be vulnerable. Authenticity is found in our vulnerability.
“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” Psalm 141:2
In the Old Testament times, lambs were offered as a morning and evening sacrifice in the Temples as a divine start and end to each day (Exodus 29:39-42). If I understand Psalm 141:2 correctly, my hands become a holy sacrifice. Merriam-Webster defines that as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone”. My workhorse hands that do so much became a quiet, living act of giving to our Holy Father.
What are we giving up when we lift our hands up to heaven? We are giving up our pride and vulnerability to open our hearts to God.
What are we receiving in return? We receive the gift of authentic worship and the Holy Spirit in our barren soul.
My hands are not just tools to work, they are instrumental to give my all and receive His Spirit in return. As Chris Tomlin sings in Unchanging (Raise Up Holy Hands),
“So we raise up holy hands / To praise the Holy One / Who was and is and is to come”.
Don’t be afraid of what others might say or think. Just do it. They just might be like me, struck by your pure, unabashed worship and smitten by the Holy Spirit’s perfect presence. All because we closed our eyes, opened our hearts and lifted up our empty hands to the Lord in worship. Let’s raise our hands together in sacrificial praise!