Some churches include worship that involves participants who raise their hands or clap during a service. Are these practices biblical?
Is it okay to raise our clap our hands during worship? Must we raise our hands in worship?
First, the raising of hands in worship is clearly seen in Scripture. For example, 1 Timothy 2:8 teaches, "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling." It appears prayer and the raising of hands was a common part of early Christian worship.
When Ezra led the people of Jerusalem in worship, we find, "And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen,' lifting up their hands" (Nehemiah 8:6). Psalm 28:2 says, "Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary." Psalm 63:4 goes further, adding, "So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands."
Second, clapping as part of singing praise to God is also found in Scripture. Psalm 47:1 says, "Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!" Though not found frequently in Scripture, clapping is associated with songs of joy to the Lord.
Though both practices are biblical, one distinction should be made. While it is perfectly acceptable to lift hands or clap in worship, these actions are also not required in order to worship God. A person's devotion to God is not measured by how much he or she claps or raises hands during worship.
Instead, God teaches, "the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4), who love Him with all of their heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-31). Outward expressions can certainly reveal a heart of love toward God, yet the heart is most important in worship of God.
In addition, it is important to consider others when in a worship gathering and not only our own preferences. In some settings, certain actions could be seen as offensive or out of place during a worship service. Worshiping together with others is not only about our own preferences, but what is best for the entire worshiping community.
In summary, both raising hands and clapping are biblical expressions of worship. While the heart is most important and worshipers should also consider those around them, clapping or raising hands can be used as positive expressions to worship the Lord.
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