ASK A BIBLE QUESTION
Patrick Morrison

Is The Raising Of Hands Acceptable In Worship To God?

     You see this practice all the time in various religious assemblies across the land.  People raise their hands and sway back and forth as they sing in worship to God.  Perhaps you have seen people lift up their hands as others offered up prayers to God.  Is the raising of hands acceptable in our worship to God?  Is there New Testament authority for this practice?  Can we find examples of the early church practicing this with God’s approval?  Let us see the Bible answer.
     Many will refer to 1 Timothy 2:8 as approval for such action.  The passage reads, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”  Does this passage authorize the lifting up of hands in worship to God?  In regards to raising the physical hands, this passage does not authorize such in worship to God.  If this passage authorizes the raising of hands in worship to God, then this verse would limit this practice to prayer only.  The raising of hands while singing, or while listening to a sermon finds no authority in this verse.  One could only raise hands while praying.  Also, if this passage authorizes the lifting up of hands in worship to God, then this verse limits this action to men only.  The word translated “men” in the verse is not the generic word for mankind.  The Greek word used here is “aner,” which refers specifically to males.  Those who seek to find authority for the lifting up of hands in worship to God advocate that both men and women may do so at any point in the worship service.  However, the very verse that they believe gives them the authority for such a practice limits the lifting up of hands to males only, and that only during prayer.
     The passage under consideration, 1 Timothy 2:8, is not referring to the lifting up of physical hands in worship to God.  The lifting up of holy hands is a metaphor for a holy life (see Job 17:9; Ps.24:4; James 4:8).  Spiritually speaking, we are to lift our “hands” up to God to show Him that our lives are clean and undefiled.  It is an action which shows we have nothing to hide.  Those men who take part in leading the public worship services need to be sure that they lead holy lives.   The same holds true when they pray in private.  Hypocrisy has no place in the life of a Christian.
     While 1 Timothy 2:8 speaks specifically to males, Paul also gives admonition to women as to how they may lift up holy hands in their lives.  They do so by adorning themselves modestly, by concentrating on the inner beauty of holiness rather than her outward appearance (I Tim.2:9,10).
     The Bible nowhere authorizes the lifting up of our physical hands in worship to God.  We need to be sure that we are living in such a way that our spiritual hands are clean and undefiled.  If we are living as God would have us to live, then we will not be ashamed to lift up our spiritual hands to God.

Do you have a Bible question that deserves a Bible answer?  Do you want more information about this subject?  Feel free to contact the Mabelvale church of Christ at 455-2548 or by fax at 407-0072.  We may also be reached by e-mail at mabelval@cei.net, and we have a web page at www.cei.net/~mabelval.  On the web page you will find archives of all of the “Ask A Bible Questions” to date, as well as other items.  Also, tune into the Search television program on Sunday mornings at 8:00 on channel 4.