Monday, March 25, 2013

with my hands lifted high?

There's a worship song that features the line "with my hands lifted high" and, every time the congregation sings it, hands raise on cue. Pavlov would be proud. There's a part of me that feels rebellious not lifting my hands while my lips sing out. And, in this wrestling, I'm learning to worship.

Two lessons come to mind:

First, there is value in hand-raising. Actually, there's a value in any body-movement in worship. One Jewish writer reflected that the "body should pray as well as the mind." For this reason, Jewish worshippers often rock back and forth, rhythmically engaging more of themselves in the act of seeking God. Likewise, when the Christian raises his hands, or claps, or stomps her feet or dances or kneels, they make an intentional effort to engage all of themselves in worship.

Hand-raising was a common expression of worship in the Bible:

Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.--Psalm 28:2

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.--Psalm 63:4

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!--Psalm 141:2

Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven.--1 Kings 8:54

“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”--Lamentations 2:19

In each instance, the person lifting their hands into the air communicates one or more of several spiritual virtues: humility [raised hands are a sign of surrender]; trust [willing and eager to receive from the Lord]; openness [vulnerability before God]; and affection [expressing a "reaching" or longing for God]. Each of these virtues gives me a good reason to raise my hands, whether or not the songs says I should or not.

The second lesson I'm learning is that my heart/will takes a while to catch up with my mind. Sometimes, the best act of worship is to do what I know is good, though my will is not sure it wants to go the distance. To say it differently, if I wait for my heart to catch up to what I know is true, I may miss out. But, if I "just do it"--knowing the value, though not fully embracing it yet--my heart will often follow suit. This is true, not only of worship, but of many things in the spiritual life.

This is how church works.


Josh and Melissa said...

Great Post! I've been wrestling with this myself recently. I sit on the front row, and I am usually the last to raise my hands (if I even do raise them).

Is your last paragraph saying that I should raise my hands in order to let my heart catch up with the focus/physical act of surrender? Sometimes I just get caught up in the prayer or singing that raising my hands would just distract me. I'm probably missing the point, or I am missing out on a wonderful state of worship. I'm moved and convicted by your post!
~josh 'espn2' fortney

Dawne Marie McElroy said...

I relate to the 'rebellious' side not wanting to lift hands. That has been my immediate response on occasion.
I find that I often weigh my motives first, in light of the story of the Pharisee(I believe?) reported in scripture to raise his hands in prayer, to be seen as more religious than others. Not in true worship from the heart.
If I can check my motive against what I know to be right, heartfelt worship(or head worship with heart worship to follow, as you described), and know that I have reverence, longing, humility, any of those in mind (or heart) then I can raise my hands, knowing why I want to do it with a clear conscience and without feeling like I am just following everyone else...or a directive in a song.
And there have been those times that I did not raise them, because I could not say for certain it was out of the proper attitude. I am reminded of the verse: God is spirit and [we] must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

The Batman said...

I must say, you were above-and-beyond passionate at times in your message yesterday. It definitely left an impression. I clearly have a LONG way to go in my worship. But, at least, I am on the journey.

Can I say, though, that I'm just not a "hand raiser?" I don't disagree with anything you said in your blog, but worship doesn't generate that kind of response in me. It's more internal, often more of the mind. I do move to the music, so that's something.

I do have a big question. What does one do when the style of worship music truly is not conducive to one having a worship experience? If I walked into PBC one Sunday and saw a robed choir, hymnals and a pipe organ, I'd be in heaven. (You're probably thinking I'd also be in the wrong place!) I'm seriously Old School. PBC is my church, but songs that sound indistinguishable from the pop tunes on the radio usually don't aid my worship. There are churches that use C&W or heavy metal worship music, and I know some people who would be completely put off by that and some who would feel right at home. It's often looked at as a lame excuse, but what do you do when the style of music is an impediment? Maybe that's why I tend to worship with my mind more than my heart?

David Daniels said...

Josh and Dawn, both of your posts deal with the "motive" aspect. I definitely believe that some people are just not "hand-raisers" and I also believe that hand-raising isn't the defining characteristic of a true worshipper. I suppose we all could learn to kneel more, close our eyes, open our eyes, sing louder, etc. The point is not to do what we don't want to do...but 1) to explore what me may not have explored before and 2) do what we feel truly expresses out heart, irregardless of what others feel.

And, on the topic of motive: You and I will never be 100% sure our motives are pure. If you're ever more than 50% sure your motives are honorable, go for it.

David Daniels said...

Bartman, I think style of music DOES make a difference in worship. God designed us as "sensual" creatures--experiencing and expressing ourselves through the senses. And, since we are all unique, it's understandable that I would love one kind of music and you might love another. The fact that you have been at PBC for a long time--though you prefer a pipe organ--is a testament to your willingness to get to the "heart" of worship instead of allowing the music to disctate it.

To your question: I don't think it's wrong to desire certain styles of music to assist us in our worship. I think it's normal and fine to have songs we enjoy (our "favorites").