There are many reasons for believing in God. Our reasons may be as individual as each one’s christian experience or as collectively appreciated as a scriptural promise that is shared by many or all believers. I have searched to understand the Presence of God, first and foremost, in the dynamic of an inner peace that often contradicts my circumstances. But no less meaningful to me for a probably less recognized reason: the miracle of holding a Bible in my hand and meditating on the possibility of my not having such a cherished treasure if there had not been a loving God to get it to me. There are so many finer points to make to corroborate this statement in the study of the Bible, its language, its message, its focus, that support a divine authorship—not to minimize the simple miracle of having it to hold, thirteen hundred plus years in the making while God employed dozens of amanuenses to script it.
But there is another that has my attention, and I wish I could play journalist for a week and interview a few hundred believers to ask them—and here it is straight:
“Why do you lift your hand or hands during a song service?”
I have seen Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, among others, …and, of course, Pentecostals do it. But do they know they have this strange ritual in common? Maybe it is not so strange. Maybe it is not a ritual! No one is told to do it and the people who do—well—seem to be “in a worshipful moment” as if only God and they were in the room. Their eyes are closed. They may have tears visible. Most observable is the expression on their faces that seems to brighten their countenance—a kind of unplanned beauty or glow about them. Some describe this as being shut in with God.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
There is a biblical word for this
Here’s the interesting part in all this: There is a biblical word for this as if God were choreographing some ceremonial expression designed exclusively to honor Him. After all the scripture affirms: God inhabits the “praises” of His people [Psalms 22:3] … and (ready for this?!) the verb in the Old Testament for praise comes from the word “hand” and means—among other related nuances—to show or point out with the hand extended, to celebrate and give thanks [an exclamation point …or two… belongs here]!!
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
The Psalmist averred as much when he wrote:
I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. Psalm 28:2
Recall Paul admonishing young Timothy’s congregants:
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8
The simple truth is that the uplifted hand is the universal symbol of praising God.
A universal expression of individual worship
Oh yes, Pentecostals often instruct their parishioners to raise their hands in worship but no one is telling the Baptists or Presbyterians or Catholics to do this. I think they wouldn’t dare because such a free flow of expression might not be as natural in these services where the order of the ritual is—I say lovingly—by design, more a part of the worship.
But without being told to, hands go up before God with a spontaneous, almost intuitive, longing to display the heart’s devotion to Him. It is as if one’s hands were begging the believer to permit them this declaration of praise. And so often the worshipper seems to raise hands in worship without thought or intention other than it “feels” right. One’s arms seems to almost raise themselves as if to say to the worshipper, “Allow me this joy!”
This appears to be a universal expression of worship, the one declaration of a heart after God’s own heart shared by all believers, the one ritual no man or church can claim as their own. Christians are not honoring some ritual or some theology or some worship leader’s call to worship; they are honoring God in this most basic and humble expression of their love for Him.
What more proof need we that God is real among His people?!