Raise Your Hand If . . .

“So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands” (Ps. 63:4).



Averie is 7. Something she says a lot is this . . .

  • Raise your hand if you know want to play a game.
  • Raise your hand if you’re ready to eat.
  • Raise your hand if you want to see my Halloween outfit.

So after visiting our church one Sunday morning, she asked at lunch:

Why do people raise their hands at your church?

It was a great question. Why do people raise their hands?

I used to wonder the same thing myself.

I grew up in a conservative church. No one moved their hands during a service except to turn the pages in the hymnal or flip to the next Bible reference. (We were masters at Bible sword drill competitions.)

But now I worship with a body of believers where we comfortably lift hands and clap hands and raise hands to heaven.

It makes perfectly good sense.

Maybe this is why:

  • Raise your hand if you agree these lyrics are true.
  • Raise your hand if you know God is faithful.
  • Raise your hand if you need God to help you.

Granted, we don’t have to lift a finger to assert those same beliefs. But maybe in asking our bodies to participate with our minds, we’re kicking our hearts into gear as well.

Worshiping in spirit and in truth looks differently for every person. There is no one-size-fits-all worship. A paraplegic can worship God just as fully and sincerely as a skilled athlete. A stoic worshiper can be just as pleasing to God as a charismatic dancer. Worship is as individual as we are.

I didn’t explain all that to Averie when she asked. But I’ve continued to think on it myself.

Ultimately, what matters is this: Are we raising our hearts to God?

And if our hands go up at the same time, so be it.

“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.”
Lamentations 3:41

* * *

Did you grow up in a hand-raising church? Or is it foreign to you? Please share in the comments.

If you still haven’t seen this, you’re due some laughter.

Tim Hawkins on Hand Raising

Tim Hawkins on Hand Raising

Related reading:

36 thoughts on “Raise Your Hand If . . .

  1. Stacey Pardoe

    This made me smile, Lisa. I grew up in a Catholic church where no one raised their hands 🙂 We now attend a Christian Missionary Alliance church, and this church has been our family for over a decade. The freedom to express ourselves in worship is a blessing. What I liked most about your post was the question of whether or not we’re lifting our hearts as we lift our hands. Yes! I want to lift my heart before the throne, lose sight of myself, and offer my worship in full surrender.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is indeed a blessing to find that freedom of expression in worship, especially when that’s not how we grew up. I wonder if I would have taken it for granted otherwise…Thanks for sharing this piece of your story here, Stacey!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like a wise pastor, Debbie. Sometimes all we need is for someone to explain things in order to open us up to a new expression. I’m grateful for the people in my life who do that for me.

  2. Barbie

    I remember the first time I visited a charismatic church. I didn’t have a clue what people were doing during worship with their hands and I wasn’t even saved. But I followed and did it and it was so freeing. I ended up getting saved a few short weeks later. To me, the lifting up of hands is both surrender to God and an invitation for God to come in. Blessings!

  3. Pam Ecrement

    Hi Lisa!
    This was a fun post for me to read. I smiled through much of it as I considered my own journey with various styles of worship and what different parts of the “family tree” believe about them. I grew up in a small country evangelical church that did not raise hands, but raised hearts and voices. As an adult I think we have experienced a diverse variety of worship styles.

    On the more Pentecostal side of the tree we have been surrounded by folks who can sometimes seem to do it almost in rote to certain tempos of music or direction from the worship leader to do so. We have been a part of charismatic churches where it seems more an individual response to a sense of God’s movement in the heart of the person. I agree it is the heart that is key to the Lord, but a careful study of scripture will find quite a few places where it was done in worship, reverence, love for, and honor to the Lord.

    We are currently in a church where some do and some don’t and the freedom is there to move as led. On a personal note, I know there are some times when we are singing that His presence feels so near and powerful that I want to respond to the intimate love of the Savior and cannot simply stand without my hands going into the air.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing this bit of your history, Pam. It’s always interesting to me to hear the variety of experiences. My current church sounds similar to yours: some do lift hands and some don’t. No judgment on either side. I love that freedom!

  4. Barbara H.

    I came from a very similar background – I don’t think anyone was “against” hand-raising, but we just never thought about it. But at the end of a service, especially if there was a visiting speaker, we’d be asked to close our eyes and raise our hands in answer to several questions (whether we were saved, whether we were right with the Lord or needed to get something right, whether we were under conviction about whatever was preached on, etc.). I agree sometimes a physical response can further the inward response, so I am not opposed to that entirely, but it did seem a lot of times like the speaker was either trying to see if there was a response or trying to drum up response, and I would often think that that needed to be left with the Lord. Sometimes we don’t know and won’t this side of heaven what someone’s inner response has been.

    The last two churches we have been in, there has been one dear lady with joy-filled face who has raised her hand during the service, and we just smiled and thought, “That’s just her way.” Now that we’re visiting around different churches, we’ve seen a wide variety of hand-raising worshipers. In fact, as I started reading, I thought of that Tim Hawkins video and was going to suggest it, so I am glad to see it here. 🙂

    I still don’t feel inclined to raise my hands personally, but I don’t mind if others do as long as it’s heart-felt and not “the expected thing” – that’s what we do just because that’s what we do mindset – and others are not thought to be less worshipful for not raising their hands.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Great commentary, Barbara. Thanks for sharing this balanced view. I agree that this can go to either extreme and leave out the heart on both extremes, defeating the purpose of our worship altogether. The church where we attend now has a wide range of worshipers so I hope everyone feels comfortable, knowing they aren’t alone in their preferred style (for lack of a better word). Worshiping God should be as unique as each person he made.

  5. bill (cycleguy)

    Hi Lisa! First, that Tim Hawkins video is hilarious. We have shown it from time to time in our gatherings. Second, like you, I was raised in a church where hand raising was not done. My first experience I broke out in a cold sweat because I thought for sure somebody was going to “speak in tongues.” Then one day I decided to let it go. It was so freeing. I will lift my hands in praise or in agreement to what that song is saying about God. I have no qualms whatsoever. I do believe raising hands should be done for the right reason. And that is whole ‘nother story. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. It was definitely freeing for me too when I finally got over my inhibitions. Being in different venues and with different people made it easier for me initially, but now in our current church it feels very natural at last. And yes, there is a “whole ‘nother story” to be told but we’ll save that for later. 🙂

  6. Jean Wise

    Fun to read the comments so far too. I grew up without the hands up and still attend a church with no hands up. BUT have attended many services where this is practiced. To each their own. We sang This little iIght of mine yesterday at church and I swayed and held my finger up and didn’t care who saw me. Love that little song. Still makes me smile.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, “to each their own” is definitely true in this case, Jean. I’m thankful for those areas where people can practice differently and no one is right or wrong for it. This little light makes me smile too. Thanks for sharing that piece of joy. 🙂

  7. Amy Jung

    Funny you bring this up. My husband is the pastor of a small, country, conservative church. There is no hand-raising. Yet–lately–including this past Sunday–I have had a desire to. I even did the half-way up raise! I’m working toward embracing the freedom that we should all have in worshiping as the spirit leads us in this regard and not worrying about pleasing people.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know how hard that can be, Amy. When I return to spaces where people don’t lift hands, I struggle with what to do with that urge. I’m sure that feeling is magnified with you being the pastor’s wife. May God bless you as you balance your freedom in your ministry.

  8. Tammy L Kennington

    Oh, yes…”lifting our hearts”! In a non-hand-raising-church, I’ve grown to a place where I (almost) feel comfortable raising my hands as the spirit leads. Thanks for the post.
    Your neighbor at Purposeful Faith,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We used to go to a seminar each summer where people would raise hands, and it was so freeing. But then when we’d return back to our home church, it was non-existent. It’s a more of a struggle than many realize. I feel for you, Tammy! Thankfully the church we are in now has people who do whatever they want, so that struggle is gone for us.

  9. Rachel Lee

    Oh my! I LOVE Tim Hawkins! haha.
    This was great, Lisa! I love how children can often get us to ponder things, we may not otherwise. My children have been some of my best teachers!
    I have gone to churches that are both conservative, and charismatic. I prefer the latter- it matches more of my personality. I love it when I am compelled to lift my hands (and heart) in worship! God is deserving of our praise.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Tim Hawkins is great, yes? He always makes me laugh, too. We got to see him in person a few years back, and even though I had heard some of the jokes already, it didn’t matter. He’s just funny. 🙂 Yes, kids can definitely show us a thing or two! I need to pick up more on their lack of inhibitions (in some ways anyway, lol).

  10. Lesley

    I loved the video! And this is an interesting topic to talk about- I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.
    I grew up in a church where hand-raising etc. was not done. Someone did once and I remember it was talked about a lot and frowned upon!
    The first time I went to a charismatic church I was so confused when everyone started raising their hands. It felt strange but at the same time I was really drawn in by the worship and there was much more of a sense of love and God’s presence than I had been used to.
    I’ve been in various different kinds of churches over the years. In the church I’m in now some people raise their hands and others don’t. I think people feel free to worship in the way that’s most comfortable to them.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I relate to everything you’re saying, Lesley. That was my experience as well. Your last statement definitely sums it up well: everyone should feel free to worship in ways that are comfortable to them. Thanks!

  11. Mary Geisen

    My church growing up was very conservative. I love what you said about only moving your hands to turn the page in the hymnal or Bible. I would have never done anything that would draw attention.

    Like you, I now go to a church where people raise hands if led. For me, it’s a beautiful way to open myself to fully worshipping God.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Reading the comments here, it seems that many of us had that same experience of growing up in more conservative churches. It makes me wonder how the next generation will view things if they’re starting out where we are ending up. 🙂 Even more freedom to come? Praise God. Thanks for sharing, Mary.

  12. Michele Morin

    We’re not hand raisers where I worship, but I attended an Assemblies of God college for a while and hung out with the Pentecostal kids when I was in high school, so I got a real smattering of worship styles early on.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You were ahead of the game early on in being exposed to other styles compared to me, Michele. It was well into adulthood before I saw anything other than my own little conservative church. I even thought my conservative neighbors were likely lost because they were conservative Baptists. 🙂 I’ve since apologized to them for being so judgmental at the time. Thankfully they didn’t hold it against me.

  13. Ruth

    In the church I was raised in, we only raised our hands if the song said, “I lift my hands to You,” and then we took them right back down.
    In the church we’ve been attending for over 15 years, most people don’t raise their hands, but as time has gone on, more and more people do. I like that it’s okay for us to be led by the Spirit as to whether or not we raise our hands.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I wonder if more people in general are getting accustomed to raising hands. ? Perhaps people are a little more comfortable with it since there is a greater variety of churches, lots of music videos online with people doing it, etc. (Just thinking out loud. lol) In the church of my youth, we didn’t even raise hands when the song suggested it (and sometimes the words were changed to not suggest it!). 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience, Ruth!

  14. Kristi Woods

    I grew up in a conservative, no-hands-held-high church as well, Lisa. But now, I lean towards charismatic churches. I agree with you, it’s truly what’s in the heart that matters. #faithonfire

  15. Betsy de Cruz

    I’m definitely a hand raiser, who started in a charismatic church but also feels comfortable in many different churches. (I spent a year with conservative Baptists in Dallas and loved them.) Your post made me smile. Yes, it’s the heart that matters.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think when we’ve seen a variety of approaches, we learn to appreciate so many different styles. It can be a blessing that we may not realize at the time, but can appreciate later! Thanks for sharing your experience, Betsy.

  16. floyd

    I’m like you, Lisa; raised in a legalistic setting. You know something is amiss, or should have known, when David and other Biblical characters raised their hands to God.

    Don’t even get me started on the long hair… Samson, Samuel, Absolom, even Paul at one time…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I suspected things were amiss in many ways too, such as not being able to sing with instrumental music during “church” yet it was fine to sing with instruments everywhere else. No knocks on any who hold those beliefs. It’s just troubling when you see them become laws contrary to what you see in Scripture.

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