Friday, April 9, 2010

Yet Another Post About Physical Expression in Worship

Another example of culture playing a part in interpretations: lifted hands. Normally when we see this in church, it looks like the person is raising his hand in class. It lasts between two seconds and twenty. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, but there is no Biblical example of it. In the Bible, when a person lifts his hands to God, he does just that – he lifts his hands to God. Not one hand, but two. And not as a statement of agreement of commitment or worshipful feeling. It’s not about the person at all. It’s to God!
In Nehemiah, the people worship God with their heads bowed, their faces to the ground, their hands lifted, and their lips repeating “Amen” as Ezra prays.

In the Psalms, David passionately cries unto God with His hands lifted toward His “holy oracle”. He longs for God and overflows with praise as he lifts up his hands in God’s name. He lifts up his hands to God’s commands, perhaps written on the walls and doorposts of his house (Deuteronomy 6)? God’s servants are commanded to lift up their hands and bless the Lord in His sanctuary. David again passionately cries unto God and asks that God view his prayer and lifted hands as incense or the evening sacrifice.
In Lamentations, Jeremiah tells Israel to get up and passionately cry out to God with lifted hands for the lives of their young children. Later he reminds the people of God’s goodness and advises them to consider their ways, return to God, and lift up their hearts with their hands to Him.
And in 1 Timothy, the men of the church are to pray everywhere. When they do, they are to lift up their hands, first making sure that the hands they lift are holy, without wrath and doubting.
But by far the most common physical expressions of worship in the Bible involve kneeling, bowing, falling upon your knees, or falling on your face. Does this indicate something about the reverence we ought to feel as we worship? Bigger question: as these are some of the more common Biblical expressions, when is the last time you saw someone (or you yourself) lay flat on your face before God? Or your whole church? When is the last time you all knelt together? Or bowed with your faces to the ground?
Here’s another interesting tidbit I found: It’s okay to pray with your eyes open, looking up.
It’s been a joy to study this. There is tremendous freedom in Christ. Not license to do what we want; but liberty to worship Him in a wide variety of ways, with a plethora of postures. So don’t be afraid of what other people in your church will think. Still be respectful, of course. But our authority is Scripture. If people did it in the Bible, we can do it now. “And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:45).

1 comment:

  1. Another thing that is important is the posture of the heart in worship. Of course, worship isn't just something we do in a congregational setting, or to music, it is a lifestyle. If our heart is not one of daily humility, servitude, and adoration of Adonai, we are just going through the motions of "worship".

    I love the name of your blog, I was attracted to it immediately when I saw it listed on another blogger's list. Thank you for sharing!

    From another Naomi