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What about Lifting Up Hands?

Does it matter whether we lift up our hands or leave them down?

First Timothy 2.8

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • September 30, In the year of our Lord, 2012

Scripture Reader and Reading. Dennis Peugh – Psalm 63.1–4


  1. Many people are uncomfortable when others lift up their hands? 
    1. Why does it make us uncomfortable?
    2. I want to show you:
      1. What the Bible says about lifting up hands.
      2. What we have practiced.
      3. Prayer postures in Scripture.
      4. First Timothy 2.8
  2. Our first concern should be 
    1. to believe what the Bible teaches,
    2. to teach what the Bible teaches,
    3. to do what the Bible teaches, and
      1. to have no concern whether a denomination also does these things, because
      2. many in the church have a goal of not being like the denominations or
      3. to be different from the denominations,
        1. even if that denomination is doing something
        2. that the Bible teaches and authorizes.


  1. What the Bible Says about Lifting Up Hands 
    1. The biblical testimony:
      1. Exo 14.16 But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 
      2. Lev 9.22 Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. 
      3. Num 20.11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 
      4. 1Ki 8.14, 22, 54 Then the king turned around and blessed the whole assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing…Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven…And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. 
      5. Neh. 8.6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 
      6. Psa 28.2 Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. 
      7. Psa 63.4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. 
      8. Psa 119.48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes. 
      9. Psa 134.2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. 
      10. Psa 141.2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. 
      11. Lam 2.19 Arise, cry out in the night, At the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him For the life of your young children, Who faint from hunger at the head of every street. 
      12. Lam 3.41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven. 
      13. Hab 3.10 The mountains saw You and trembled; The overflowing of the water passed by. The deep uttered its voice, And lifted its hands on high. 
      14. Luke 24.50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 
      15. Acts 21.40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying…
    2. Why then would anyone oppose the lifting up of hands?
      1. They do not want to appear to be Pentecostal.
      2. They do not want to appear to be liberal.
      3. It has not been our practice. Or has it?
  2. What We Have Practiced 
    1. Song leaders lift their hands and wave them all over the place.
    2. Preachers lift their hands while speaking.
    3. Students in Bible class lift their hands to be recognized, or
      1. at least I wish they would raise their hands,
      2. instead of blurting things out.
    4. Old-time preachers used to lift a hand while baptizing.
    5. We do other physical things in worship, why oppose lifting hands?
      1. We bow our heads.
      2. We close our eyes.
      3. We stand.
      4. We sit.
    6. We have as much authority to lift our hands as we do these other things.
      1. The Scriptures show it.
      2. The Scriptures show all these things except perhaps for closing the eyes.
  3. Prayer Postures in Scripture 
    1. What dictates the physical position in prayer?
    2. What gestures do you use when you speak?
      1. Our posture comes about naturally,
        1. unless instructed to do so,
        2. such as when the leader say to stand for the prayer or song, etc.
      2. Why do we close our eyes and bow our heads when we pray?
        1. A sign of humility.
        2. Easier to concentrate.
        3. It is our custom.
    3. The Bible shows the following postures.
      1. Standing
        1. First Kings 8

          22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said. “LORD God of Israel…” (1Ki 8.22).
        2. See also Nehemiah 9.1–5.

          1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. 2 Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God. 4 Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the LORD their God. 5 And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said. “Stand up and bless the LORD your God Forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! (Neh 9.1–5).
      2. Kneeling
        1. First Kings 8

          54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven (1Ki 8.54).
        2. Ezra 9.5

          5 At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God (Ezra 9.5).
        3. Luke 22.41

          41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed (Luke 22.41).
        4. Acts 20.36

          36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all (Acts 20.36).
      3. Laying on the ground with the face to the ground.
        1. Mark 14.35

          35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him (Mar. 14.35).
      4. Looking up into heaven
        1. Matthew 14.19

          19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes (Mat. 14.19).
        2. John 11.41

          41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me” (Joh. 11.41).
        3. John 17.1

          1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said. “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (Joh. 17.1).
      5. Head bowed down
        1. Ezra 9.6

          6 And I said. “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens” (Ezra 9.6).
        2. Luke 18.13

          13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18.13).
      6. While seated
        1. Matthew 26.20, 26

          20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve… 26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matt 26.20, 26).
  4. First Timothy 2.8
    1. The context begins at verse 1.
      1. We should pray for all men, including those in authority
      2. that we may have a life of peace.
    2. Verses 3 and 4 show that the reason we should pray
      1. is that such is acceptable to God, because
      2. He wants all people to be saved by hearing the truth,
        1. which spreads better in an environment of peace.
    3. Verses 5–7 explain that the only way to God is through Jesus, and
      1. that is why Paul preached and taught, and
      2. that we are to do the same thing.
    4. Therefore, in verse 8, Paul urged us to pray for what he had mentioned,

      8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting… (1Ti 2.8).

      1. A common way of praying is to lift the hands, because
      2. that is what we are doing in the spirit.
        1. However, men, as we pray for what Paul mentioned in verses 1–7,
        2. we have to make sure that our hands are holy,
          1. that our lives are holy, and
          2. that we do not have wrath against our leaders, and
            1. that we do not doubt what we can accomplish in prayer.


  1. What matters the most is the position of the heart before God. 
    1. This comes out naturally through our gestures or posture.
      1. Is one position more spiritual than another?
      2. Can we enforce one position over another?
    2. We must be careful to avoid making a show of our physical position in prayer.
      1. Matthew 6.5

        5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matt 6.5).
      2. Let the posture of prayer
        1. be the natural expression of our hearts
        2. rather than a way of showing men our righteousness.
  2. More than lifting up your hands to the Lord, 
    1. lift up your soul to Him in praise, or
    2. pour out your soul before the Lord in humility, because you either
      1. have a request like Hannah did, or
      2. have a troubled soul like the sons of Korah,

        1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
        So pants my soul for You, O God.
        2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
        When shall I come and appear before God?
        3 My tears have been my food day and night,
        While they continually say to me,
        “Where is your God?”
        4 When I remember these things,
        I pour out my soul within me.
        For I used to go with the multitude;
        I went with them to the house of God,
        With the voice of joy and praise,
        With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
        5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
        And why are you disquieted within me?
        Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
        For the help of His countenance.
        (Psa 42.1–5)
  3. Can we pour out our souls for you before the Lord 
    1. that we might then lift up your soul to Him, and then
    2. you will have confidence to lift up both your hands and soul to Him?
  4. I say this to everyone of you,

    8 Trust in Him at all times, you people;
    Pour out your heart before Him;
    God is a refuge for us.
    (Psa 62.8)