Reaching Out to God for Mercy

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Default article daily reflection

Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary.

In the church where I grew up, people didn't raise their hands in a worship service, except for the pastor when it was time for a benediction. But, as time passed, every now and then I'd see someone raising his or her hands while we were singing. It seemed oddly out of place in our stately Presbyterian sanctuary.

In the 1980s, more and more Christians began lifting their hands in worship, even in decent and orderly mainline churches. This created quite a stir in some places, with church leaders frowning on such "emotionalism" while hands-raising worshipers spoke of an enhanced sense of God's presence. I remember participating in many discussions, some quite heated, about whether this practice should be tolerated or even encouraged.

I was curious about what the Bible taught about lifting hands before God, and was surprised to find that this practice was common and commended. Psalm 134:2, for example, reads, "Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD." In 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul says that he wants "men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God." I never before realized that such things could be found in the Bible.

But I also learned that raising hands in prayer, a common posture for Jews in biblical times, was not just a way of expressing praise to God. In fact, lifting ones hands was often associated with neediness and supplication. That's the case in Psalm 28:2, where David lifts his hands as he cries out to the Lord for mercy.

There are times when we are so desperate for God's help that we might even lift our hands to him, like a child needing her mother's help. The physical gesture isn't required, of course. But, like kneeling or bowing our heads, raising our hands in prayer to God might just help lead our hearts before him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever lift your hands before God in prayer? In what contexts? What does this mean to you? How do physical expressions impact your communication with the Lord, if at all?

PRAYER: Gracious God, we know that physical postures and expressions don't impress you, since you look upon the heart. We can look very spiritual from the outside, but turn our hearts from you on the inside.

Nevertheless, you have made us as whole, integrated people. And sometimes what we do with our bodies helps to move our hearts. So teach us, Lord, how we might come before you in prayer, holding nothing back. Give us new freedom to pray and to worship with all that we are, loving you with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And when we are desperate, may we approach you as needy children, yes, perhaps even lifting our hands before you. Reach out to us, Lord, to embrace us in your love and grace. Amen.