enter image description here enter image description here You don't need to go far to agree that raising hands while singing and worshiping (with music or prayer) is a big Christian tradition.

I've always thought that this was some reference to Psalm 134.2:

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. (KJV)

Or to 1 Timothy 2:8:

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (KJV)

So, I can imagine some biblical basis for it. But my question is: When this started on church's history? Is there some theology behind it? Any Father who registered, did or encouraged it? Or is this a thing of modern christian movements?

3 Answers 3


It goes all the way back to Genesis 29:35 at least with Leah raising her hands in praise to YHWH in naming Judah. As a Biblical Hebrew professor thinking in Hebrew, I find the Old Testament full of hand raising. After the most frequent verb for spoken praise HaLeL (Strong's #1984 & 8416), the word most translated (53 times) as "praise" is the verb YaDaH (Strong's #3034) derived from the word for hand/forearm YaD (Strong's #3027). It's also translated (40 times) as "thank" and (18 times) as "confess".

Praise has always been demonstrated physically as well as verbally, even though often religiously repressed. I was worried of being branded as a heretic when I first tried it in my Baptist church, but it caught on like it was the most natural way to express praise. Once freed, the congregations I've been a part of haven't gone back to suppression. Good enough reason to get your hands up.

  • Nice answer! So you propose that Christian tradition of raising hands on corporate worship is heritage of a Hebrew tradition? So there must be mentions of this in the early centuries Church's records. Do you know any? Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 16:44
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for offering an answer here. Can you provide links for the Strong's references you provide? If so, it would make it a lot easier for readers to look up and verify your points. See: What makes a good supported answer?. Meanwhile, I hope you'll stick around and browse some of the other questions and answers here. Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 17:18
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    @FilipeMerker - Check out 1 Timothy 2:8 for a NT reference to lifting hands in prayer: "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;" Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 16:47
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    @Filipe, Other than NoChinDeluxe's astute notice of Paul's desire, I haven't researched the early church corporate expressions/traditions. We try to squeeze everything we learn into the box of our experience. Paul and Jesus weren't thinking about 'corporate worship services' because the things simply didn't exist. Believers praised God spontaneously anywhere and almost certainly during their daily communal meal/gatherings (no agenda/sermon/ritual/praise-time, just life together). Physically raising hands in praise is just the way a Hebrew-trained mind thinks.
    – Mark Walsh
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 23:19

Exodus 17:11

So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.

Nehemiah 8:6

Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Deuteronomy 32:40

'Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever,

Psalm 63:4

So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

Psalm 119:48

And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Psalm 28:2

Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.

Psalm 141:2

May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.

Psalm 134:2

Lift up your hands to the sanctuary And bless the LORD.

Lamentations 2:19

"Arise, cry aloud in the night At the beginning of the night watches; Pour out your heart like water Before the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to Him For the life of your little ones Who are faint because of hunger At the head of every street."

Lamentations 3:41

We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven;

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    This is an excellent list of scriptures demonstrating that people raising their hands in worship or bless has been done biblically, but has any church, tradition, or denomination actually pointed to these as their source of their behavior? The answer would be benefited by modern insight.
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 14:43

One thing my wife & I have noticed is that when a Modern Contemporary Worship song is played we see the hands lifting in the air. But when a Hymn is played/sung, we rarely ever see those same hands lifted up, if any and not usually til the chorus.

So it seems that the music of today along with perhaps the lyrics to a lesser degree seem to have a manipulative effect on those who want to raise their hands. There seems to be a lot more emotion involved and less meaningful thought.

If some wish to disagree that's fine, but we see what we see and the same pattern we have seen in multiple churches.

On the other hand when we've been to a Bible teaching conference that sing only the Hymns we rarely ever see a pair of hands go up in the air.

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