In the past few years the act of lifting up hands during worship has become more prominent. I am a member of Great Hills Baptist Church here in Austin and several lift up their hands while singing traditional or praise choruses. What does the Bible teach about this practice?
Paul instructed Timothy, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (I Timothy 2:8)
This passage is actually about men praying rather than praising. It was customary for Jewish men to pray with their arms extended and their hands open to heaven. There are many prayer postures found in the Bible: standing with outstretched hands (I Kings 8:22); kneeling (Dan. 6:10); standing (Luke 18:11); sitting (2 Sam. 7:18); bowing the head (Gen. 24:26); lifting the eyes (John 17:1); falling on the ground (Gen. 17:3). The important thing is not the posture of the body but the posture of the heart.
The lifting up of “holy hands” is a picture of a holy life. “Clean hands” was symbolic of a blameless life. (2 Sam. 22:21; Ps. 24:4). David said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Ps. 66:18) The operative word in that verse is “regard.” It means that a person may have a “pet sin” they regard. I have signed letters with the words “Kindest Regards.” This is a Prayer Promise that many have not highlighted. God will not hear a person’s prayer if they have a regarded sin in their life which they refuse to confess.
There is nothing wrong with the lifting of hands during prayer or praise as long as it is not to draw attention to yourself and you have no unconfessed sin in your life. Without these two criteria it becomes hypocrisy.