THE SERVANT GENERAL
your right hand is the Lord”
According to the expressions of our spirituality,
when we worship, we raise our hands. Now this is a
very very meaningful posture. It means a lot and it
says a lot. We must understand the implication of
raised hands, so that when we raise our hands, it
does not just become one of those automatic things
we do during worship. Worship is our great privilege,
when we come into the presence of the Almighty God.
As we worship, and as we raise our hands, we affirm
What then do raised hands during worship mean?
First, and this is what most of us
understand raised hands to mean, it is a posture of
worship. “Let my prayer be incense before you;
my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice.” (Ps
141:2). We in effect are acknowledging the Lord for
who He is, saying with our hands, “Hail King
Second, we bless God.2 “I will
bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands,
calling on your name.” (Ps 63:5). “Lift
up your hands toward the sanctuary, and bless the
Lord.” (Ps 134:2).
Now since we are in the presence of the Almighty,
Omnipotent and holy God, and though God can welcome
sinners, but so that we might enter more intimately
into our worship, we must be properly attired and
have the proper disposition to enter into the banquet.3
So we need to be clean of heart. We need to be repentant
of our sins as we come before the Lord in worship.4
We come with clear consciences. We know we are striving
for holiness, and expectantly anticipate the added
graces to be showered upon us during our time of worship.
We exit the assembly a little bit more holy than when
So third, when we raise our hands,
we are showing to the Lord, and for all to see, our
blameless hands held aloft. “It is my wish,
then, that in every place the men5 should pray, lifting
up holy hands, without anger or argument.” (1
Tm 2:8). Remember the nursery rhyme, “I have
two hands, the left and the right, hold them up high
so clean and bright”? As children of the Father,
we proudly show Him our hands that are clean. Indeed,
“clean little hands are good to see.”
God tells us to be holy because He is holy. Our distinguishing
characteristic is holiness. So this aspect of clean
hands cannot be emphasized enough. And so as the Lord
taught His covenanted people Israel how to worship,
the psalmists often stressed this.
David could confidently tell the Lord, “Lord
my God, if I am at fault in this, if there is guilt
on my hands, …. then let my enemy pursue and
overtake me” (Ps 7:4-6). In the same way, God
tells us to first settle the wrong that we do before
we even worship. “Therefore, if you bring your
gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother
has anything against you, leave your gift there at
the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt 5:23-24).6 7
So raising our hands is signifying righteousness.
This is pleasing to the Lord. “The Lord acknowledged
my righteousness, rewarded my clean hands. So the
Lord rewarded my righteousness, the cleanness of my
hands in his sight.” (Ps 18:21,25). How do we
become righteous? “For I kept the ways of the
Lord, I was not disloyal to my God. His laws were
all before me, his decrees I did not cast aside. I
was honest toward him; I was on guard against sin.”
(Ps 18:22-24). Our righteousness is about obeying
God, avoiding sin, faithfulness to God’s way
of life, and living in integrity.
So as we worship, which involves entering into the
presence of a holy God, let us look to our own holiness
and righteousness. “Who may go up the mountain
of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? The
clean of hand and pure of heart” (Ps 24:3-4a).
Let us ensure that we have clean hands, which we can
raise for all to see, but especially for our God,
so that we might be worthy to worship. “I will
wash my hands in innocence and walk round your altar,
Lord” (Ps 26:6).8 “But I walk without blame;
…. My foot stands on level ground; in assemblies
I will bless the Lord.” (Ps 26:11-12).
Worship draws us near to God, and worship, as we have
seen, involves righteousness, which in turn involves
integrity and obedience.
is integrity? Among other things, integrity is about
pure hearts and singlemindedness for God. It is loving
God with our all. It is having God as our one and
only priority. It is having no other idols in our
lives. It is living for God alone. “Draw near
to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your
hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of
two minds.” (Jas 4:8).
And we need to be obedient to God. God’s law
and God’s word are our guideposts to living
a life of holiness. We look to God’s word, edicts,
teaching, precepts, decrees, commands (Ps 119:42-47).
When we worship with hands raised, we affirm our obedience
to God and to His commands. “I lift up my hands
to your commands; I study your laws, which I love.”
(Ps 119:48). Obedience is the fourth
meaning of raised hands.
to our need
Hands raised in worship also refer to our posture
of weakness and nothingness before the Lord. We are
in terrible need of His mercy and grace, and also
practical help in our distress in the world.
So fifth, hands raised during worship
are our cry for help from God. “Hear the sound
of my pleading when I cry to you, lifting my hands
toward your holy place.” (Ps 28:2). Have you
ever seen film footages of starving refugees crowding
around a truck of relief goods? All are desperately
crying out for help, with hands outstretched. So too
are we in the presence of a holy and perfect God,
who desires us to be as He is.9 On our own, we are
nothing and desperately in need of God’s mercy,
grace and blessing. “Here I am, afflicted and
poor. God, come quickly! You are my help and deliverer.
Lord, do not delay!” (Ps 70:6).
Our raised hands are meant to catch God’s attention,10
to ask to be remembered in our need, to plead for
timely help. If we truly understood our sorry condition
before a holy God, then it would became a desperate
plea for help. “On the day of my distress I
seek the Lord; by night my hands are raised unceasingly;
I refuse to be consoled.” (Ps 77:3). “All
day I call on you, Lord; I stretch out my hands to
you.” (Ps 88:10b). Our desperate longing for
God’s love and care is like the situation of
one in the wide desert desperate to satisfy his great
thirst. “I stretch out my hands to you; I thirst
for you like a parched land.” (Ps 143:6).
Considering our great need and helplessness and our
total dependence on God, our raising of our hands
in worship indicate, sixth, our total
surrender. When a soldier surrenders to the enemy,
he indicates this by raising his hands high. When
a criminal is cornered by a police officer with a
firearm, the former is ordered to raise his hands,
indicating acceptance that he has come into the power
of the latter.
We are called on to surrender our lives to God, so
that He can fully form us and care for us, according
to how He knows best. In worship with raised hands,
we acknowledge God for who He is, accept that He is
the best Person to care for us, abandon our control
over our lives, and place ourselves entirely in His
When we humbly acknowledge our need and surrender
ourselves to God, then He not only tosses us the relief
goods (mercy and grace), but He in fact takes hold
of our hands. This is the seventh
aspect of our upraised hands in worship. He initiates
or deepens a personal relationship. He makes us one
with Him, through such an intimate contact. He firmly
takes hold of our lives. “Yet I am always with
you; you take hold of my right hand.” (Ps 73:23).
the Lord takes hold of us, then there He will stay,
if we let Him. “The Lord is your guardian; the
Lord is your shade at your right hand.” (Ps
121:5). Remember the thirsty man in the desert? God
not only provides living water, but He provides shade
as well. When God takes hold of our right hand, we
are assured of His total care. “By day the sun
cannot harm you, nor the moon by night. The Lord will
guard you from all evil, will always guard your life.
The Lord will guard your coming and going both now
and forever.” (Ps 121:6-8).
God is there, just waiting for us. When we worship
with hands raised, the whole process of God taking
over our lives begins, and with subsequent times of
worship, deepens. What a great privilege and assurance
this is for us. “I keep the Lord always before
me; with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken.”
(Ps 16:8). With our right hand clasped by His right
hand, we can rest secure. “You will show me
the path to life, abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.” (Ps
When we raise our hands in worship, one other thing
that we are doing, the eighth aspect,
is to pledge our allegiance to God. In effect we are
giving God a salute, affirming our loyalty and submission.11
We affirm that we belong to Him. We are His to dispose
of as He wills.
Ninth, we testify to God’s
love. When we are a witness in a courtroom, we are
asked to raise our right hand and to swear to tell
the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So in worship
with raised hands, we testify to the truth about the
One whom we are worshiping. We affirm God for who
He is. And we affirm that we are telling the truth.
This is the opposite of those who lie, whose “mouths
speak untruth; their right hands are raised in lying
oaths.” (Ps 144:11b). Thus to raise our hands
in worship is a serious gesture or posture. We are
proclaiming to the world that the Lord is King, that
we have given our allegiance to Him, that we belong
totally to Him. If this is not so, then our right
hands are raised in lying oaths.
Tenth, when we raise our hands in
worship, we affirm our covenant with God. God has
entered into covenant with us, primarily as His people
that make up the universal Church, and secondarily
as CFC-FFL. When we come before the God who called
us and appointed us to our task, we are affirming
and renewing our covenant. We are promising, with
His help, to live it out more fully.
ready for battle
Another very significant aspect, the eleventh,
of our raising our hands in worship is that we are
saying, “Here I am, Lord, use me.” First
we affirm that we are indeed with Him, that we are
not the enemy within. We raise and show our hands
to be clean, that we “had not worshiped the
beast or its image nor had accepted its mark on (our)
foreheads or hands.” (Rv 20:4). Then our raised
hands indicate or readiness for mission.
Readiness for mission necessitates proper training.
Mission means spiritual warfare. We need to be prepared
to do battle. We need to power of the Spirit. So twelve,
we raise our hands to be examined by God to show our
mission readiness. Just as the soldier would show
his weapon to his officer to examine if he is battle-ready,
we show our hands to God to show the same thing. In
this spiritual battle, God “trained my hands
for war, my arms to bend even a bow of bronze.”
(Ps 18:35). It is God “who trains my hands for
battle, my fingers for war” (Ps 144:1). It is
God who checks our weapon as we worship, “with
the praise of God in (our) mouths, and a two-edged
sword in (our) hands” (Ps 149:6).
Our human hands are also what God uses to transfer
His power for mission. Thus we pray over those who
will serve and who will do mission. In appointing
assistants, the community of disciples chose seven
reputable men, and then the apostles “prayed
and laid hands on them.” (Acts 6:6). In sending
Barnabas and Saul off for mission, the disciples fasted
and prayed, and then “they laid hands on them
and sent them off.” (Acts 13:3). As Simon the
magician observed, “the Spirit was conferred
by the laying on of the apostles’ hands”
(Acts 8:18). But this was not just a human gesture
or ritual, something that Simon thought could be bought
by money. Rather, Peter told Simon that his “heart
was not upright before God” and directed him
to “repent of this wickedness” (Acts 8:21-22).
Here again we see the proper posture of repentance
and holiness before our God. We are to be holy warriors.
We are to go forth into battle “in the power
of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right
and at the left” (2 Cor 6:7).12
Upraised hands in worship
Whew! There is much to upraised hands in worship than
most of us thought, or did not think about. Now we
know. It is a very serious and meaningful posture,
which practically encapsulates the fullness of our
life in Christ!
We should praise God for the privilege of worship,
and mean everything that raised hands signify.
As a postscript, let me add something about the proper
posture of raising our hands.13
Normally it is hand raised, palm outward to God. Having
our palm pointed inward towards us is proper to petition
and of course is part of our time of worship. But
the normative posture is palm outward. We are addressing
When we raise our hand, it can be low, medium or high
(for lack of better terms). Our arm14 can be bent at
the elbow, forming a “V” with our elbow
pointing to the floor. Or our arm can be raised higher,
with our arm bent at the elbow at a right angle to
our body, forming an “L” with our elbow
pointing horizontally (our upper arm15 parallel to the
floor). Or our arm can be raised fully, with the arm
not bent but straight.
We can raise either our right hand or both our right
and left hands. Normally, if we raise only one hand,
it will be the right and not the left.16
Understanding the important of raised hands should
also mean that we do not just clap our hands when
we sing during worship. While there are certainly
times for clapping our hands while singing, clapping
is more proper immediately after the song, when we
also shout out our praises to God. Clapping is certainly
part of worship and pleasing to God, but if it keeps
us from raising our hands to God, then we will be
missing a lot.
For a fuller treatment of this, see On Worship (Part
2 For a fuller treatment of this, see On
Worship (Part 3).
3 For a fuller treatment of worship as
a banquet, see On Worship (Part 2).
4This is why at times the worship leader
leads the congregation into repentance. However, such
repentance should already have happened individually
before we even enter into the period of worship. This
is why, if we have not entered into it even before
we arrive at the venue, it is good to take a little
time just to sit in silence at our place, as the congregation
settles down and prepares to start the worship. The
same is true at a Eucharistic celebration.
5And women of course.
6Recalling if a brother has anything against
us involves an examination of conscience. If we find
that indeed we have done an unrighteous act against
the brother, then this applies. However, it is possible
that a brother has something against us though we
are blameless. In this case, our conscience is clear
and we can continue with our worship.
7We certainly can act on this literally.
However, right before the time of worship or a Eucharistic
celebration, if we recall such unrighteousness against
a brother on our part, we can just resolve to rectify
the situation soonest possible, and continue on with
8Versus dirty hands. “Their hands
carry out their schemes; their right hands are full
of bribes.” (Ps 26:10).
9Jesus says, “So be perfect, just
as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48).
10Not that God needs to be prodded to attend
to us. This is about our proper posture and not God’s.
So perhaps we need to consider that if we do not raise
our hands in worship, God might not notice us in the
milling crowd, and we would not get our share of help
and blessings (note to footnote: God will of course
always notice us. Again this is about our posture
and not God’s).
11A good visual image is that of the Nazi
salute to Hitler. Right hands and arms are fully stretched
out. Our analogy here of course is just in the manner
12Precisely because we engage in spiritual
warfare with righteousness, then sending brethren
off on mission necessitates looking into their spiritual
condition. As laying on of hands imposes God’s
power and authority for mission, then those who do
so need to be prudent and discerning. “Do not
lay hands too readily on anyone, and do not share
in another’s sins.” (1 Tm 5:22).
13Technically we raise our arm and our
14The arm is the human limb between the
shoulder and the wrist.
15Shoulder to elbow.
16There are many Biblical passages about the importance
of the right hand, especially when referring to God.
In many cultures, interaction involving hands (whether
shaking hands or handing an important document over)
is done with the right hand. Swearing in for the Presidency
of a country or in a courtroom is done using the right
hand. On a lighter note, if you saw the movie Slumdog
Millionaire (I hope you see it), there is that amusing
scene where one was told not to eat with his left
hand because that was the hand used to wipe his ___
(oh, go and see the movie yourself).
starter for household meetings:
have you learned about raising hands during worship?
How can you now more properly respond to our times
(June 13, 2009)
download file, click on icon
Worship (Part 4) [PDF]