I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. (1 Timothy 2:8)
Lifting up one’s hands was a practice of holy men in the Old Testament. At the dedication of the temple Solomon stood before the altar, in the presence of all the people, and lifted his hands toward the heavens.
It appears Paul is saying men who lead the congregation in worship should have holy lives. They should not mock the name of God by pretending to honor Him while their lives are full of sin and hypocrisy.
Please don’t misunderstand. No human leader is sinless, and everyone who stands before the Lord’s people is imperfect. But there is a difference between someone who is a sinner, and someone who is actively engaged in a sinful lifestyle that could bring shame to the Lord’s kingdom. My guess is Paul was thinking of people like Hymeneaus and Alexander who had shipwrecked in their faith.
In our culture, we have people who lift up their hands when they worship in the assembly, as they lead and as they follow. There was a day when people only lifted up their hands in certain kinds of churches. Now, the practice is common to some degree in most churches.
As we can see in our passage this morning, lifting up our hands in worship is very biblical. I don’t think it is a command of scripture because I think Paul was focusing here on the spiritual condition of the worshipper, not the physical posture. Those who lift up their hands as a sign of their devotion when they worship should not diminish the significance of their act with angry or contentious behavior.
I don’t mean to cast stones, but I have witnessed it first-hand. I have heard people say unkind things about their brothers and sisters in Christ, moments before marching into a worship service late and raising their hands in the air in worship.
And I have done it. No, I haven’t raised unholy hands. That’s because I don’t raise my hands in worship. Instead, I have worshipped in my own way with the same double-standard. I have come into the presence of the Lord, pretending to love Him, and harbored the wrong spirit in my heart toward others. Call me a stealth unholy hand raiser.
The physical act of raising our hands only accentuates our ungodly behavior. We can disappoint God with our attitude and actions regardless of our how we worship.
Our whole being is lifted up to God in worship. Our heart, mind, soul and strength belong to Him, and His Holy Spirit inhabits us. Paul wants the church everywhere to come before the Lord in adoration, and in confession, asking God to examine every nook and cranny and burn out the dross of sin and evil.
What was on your mind the last time you worshipped God? Oh, and perhaps I should add, worship doesn’t just take place in an assembly.
Dear God, help me be the worshipper I should be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.