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What It Means to Lift Hands in Church

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

People lifting hands in worship

People lifting hands in worship

People raise their hands in church for many different reasons. Visitors might not know what the different types of lifting hands mean. Some people who go to church every Sunday might not know what the different gestures mean either.

There are half a dozen ways congregants lift their hands and each one means a different thing. Unless you know what the particular gesture is, you might be lifting your hands for the wrong thing.

Reasons to Lift Hands

Raising hands in worship is symbolic of people's dependence on God. The gesture is very similar to children who lift their hands to be picked up, comforted, protected, or carried. Raising hands in worship may suggest the same things. It is an indication that those who raise their hands want to be lifted up by God, to feel His presence and to be comforted.

Raising hands is also done to bless God and to thank Him. This symbolizes both gratefulness and joy for the blessings God has bestowed up people. Many of the psalms indicate that practice to show thankfulness and joy for God's mighty works.

Lifting one hand might signify a vow. This is similar to the custom of raising one hand in court and promising to tell the "truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Raising one hand is used when presidents and other officials take the Oath of Office.

The custom of raising hands during worship was a common practice in the early church, and it continued today in some churches.

The Practice of Lifting Up Hands

The practice of lifting up hands in a worship service is common in most churches today. There are different ways to do so, and each way means something different.

The various ways that people lift up their hands include these.

  • both arms above their heads
  • only one arm up in the air
  • arms up and to their sides
  • arms up in front with palms opened upward or their hands held together
  • swaying arms gently
  • swaying entire bodies with eyes
  • swaying entire bodies with eyes closed

If someone from a different religion or non-hand raising church saw this, they wouldn't know what it means.

Exalting God with hands raised to heaven.

Exalting God with hands raised to heaven.

Both Hands Lifted High in Air

Hands lifted high in the air with palms opened wide is a way to exalt God and show adoration to Him. You are saying God is everything and you stand in awe of His greatness.

This posture indicates that a person is celebrating God. With raised hands and palms up, the person is celebrating who God is.

You can't tell in this photo if the man is lifting his hands in a worship service or at the command of a police office.

You can't tell in this photo if the man is lifting his hands in a worship service or at the command of a police office.

Hands Lifted To Surrender

Have you ever seen in the movies or on television when a policeman confronts the bad guys, he tells them to raise their hands? This is to show that they are defenseless without any weapons. It is evident that they are surrendering.

When people in the church take that position, they are surrendering to God and taking the position of being under authority.

In the photo above, you can't tell if the man is lifting his hands in the sanctuary or if he is obeying the commands of a police officer. They both look the same. The photo was actually taking when a police officer told the people to "Raise your hands."

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Open palms to receive God's blessings.

Open palms to receive God's blessings.

Both Hands Lifted With Palms Open

When people lift both hands with palms open, they are letting God know they are available to receive His blessing. Just as you open your hands to receive a gift from someone, you do the same to receive God's gift. You open your both hands with palms up.

Outstretched hands; palms up

Outstretched hands; palms up

Lift Hands in Worship is Biblical

Many scriptures give evidence that lifting hands to worship God is biblical. When you are praying or worshiping in any situation, you can lift your hands in praise and adoration to God.

When you lift your hands to God in prayer or song, you are releasing the Holy Spirit. You are letting God know that you love and adore Him. You are reaching up to God to seek Him to feel His presence and to get more of God.

The Bible commands the lifting up of hand because it is a physical posture of a person's spiritual attitude. In other words, we use our hands to express our hearts to God.


Biblical Proof of Lifting Hands

Scripture ReferenceCommandment

Psalm 28:2

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.

Psalm 63:4

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 134:2

Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!

Psalm 141:2

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Psalm 143:6

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Lamentations 3:41

Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.

1 Timothy 2:8

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

Hands lifted during benediction

Hands lifted during benediction

Raising Hands During the Benediction

Christ, before ascending, “lifted up his hands and blessed them” (Luke 24:50).

“Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them.” (Lev. 9:22)

When the minister raises his hands while giving the benediction at the end of a worship service, he is sending the people out with a blessing. Those who want the blessing respond by raising one hand with palm open toward the one giving the blessing. It seems that the first high priest and the Great High Priest set a pattern to follow. Jesus also used this method to bless the people.

Jesus lifted hands while blessing the people

Jesus lifted hands while blessing the people


"Yadah" is a Hebrew word that means to express thanks to God by praising Him with the hands lifted in the air. The word is the book of Psalms about 70 times.

Yadah comes from the root YAD meaning hand. Therefore, yadah means to extend the hands in the giving of thanks as part of our worship experience.


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on May 28, 2018:

Martha, it is always good to read your comments. Thanks for reading.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on May 28, 2018:

Thanks, Tim, for reading and commenting.

Martha Rogers on May 28, 2018:

Enjoyed reading this, so informative. I am learning so much as to the DO and WHY things are being done the reason and way things are being done.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on May 28, 2018:

Interesting article. I enjoyed reading about the different ways in which people raised their hands in devotion to God. Great information. Thanks.



Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on May 28, 2018:

Louise and The Stages of ME, thanks for reading and commenting on my article about the different meanings of the ways people raise their hands in church.

Someone asked me about this. I decided to write an article so others would know my answers. People raise their hands all the time in the churches I attend.

Kathy Henderson from Pa on May 28, 2018:

Love this!!!!

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on May 28, 2018:

It was interesting to know the different meanings in the way people lift their hands to God. There's a lot of people in my Church that raise their hands too.

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