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The Bible tells us, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17) and that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
As Christians, we must take stock of our lives and ask ourselves if we’re reflecting the truth in these verses. Do we approach God with both reverence AND bold faith?
From personal experience, I believe in order to receive the fullness of the freedom the Holy Spirit offers, we must learn how to worship well.
Growing up, worship was my least favorite part about church. I sang along but was never fully engaged. I’m not proud to admit it, but I quietly judged people who lifted their hands during worship.
I couldn’t comprehend what motivated this gesture and thought it was strange—even awkward; just the thought of raising my arms in public felt unsettling. Perhaps you can relate, or if not, maybe you know someone who has a similar viewpoint.
I received a fresh perspective from a friend years later. When I asked her what gave her the desire and confidence to lift her hands during worship, she responded, “It’s really not about confidence for me; it’s an act of surrender. When I lift my hands, I’m doing it to humble myself before God.”
My heart was stirred by this explanation; part of me wondered if God was asking me to try it out, but the other part still felt anxious to draw attention to myself in any way while worshiping and I thought, “Surely God wouldn’t want me to do something that made me feel this uneasy.” Ha! I should have known God will always use even the tiniest seed of curiosity to grow fruit.
A few months later I attended my first ever church conference hosted by our women’s ministry. Unbeknownst to me, a huge aspect of these conferences are the worship sets.
At the time, the song “Waymaker” had just been released, and I was hearing (and singing) it for the first time. For those who are not familiar, the song proclaims “Waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness, my God, that is who You are.” It goes on to say, “even when I don’t see it–You’re working, even when I don’t feel it–You’re working. You never stop working.”
The words cut so deeply into my soul that I could barely get through a stanza without choking up. I was truly convicted by God’s goodness and for the first time, I set aside what everyone else thought about me as I placed my hands out, palms up, and sang to Him.
It wasn’t even the full-fledged, arms-up type of gesture I had seen so many others display, but for God, this small act of surrender was enough.
As I held out my hands, my heart began to beat out of my chest and I literally felt the power of the Holy Spirit descend upon my head–the best way I can describe the feeling was that it was as though I was being connected with the pulsing heartbeat of God in Heaven.
This incredible experience gave me a profound revelation about God’s heart and how He responds to sincere worship.
It isn’t that God won’t accept our praises if our arms are down—but sometimes offering ourselves physically is what it takes in order for us to come to the end of ourselves.
In my case, I had to stop overthinking in order to fully offer myself before God, praising Him wholeheartedly and unashamedly.
Theologian C.S. Lewis wrote that because God created us as both physical and spiritual beings, it’s safe to assume that what we do with our physical body affects our spirit.
On prayer, he wrote, “the body ought to pray as well as the soul. Body and soul are both better for it.”
I believe the same applies to worship. I’m not suggesting that if you don’t lift up your hands or bow down every time you worship that your heart is in the wrong place. But I do believe that meaningful worship requires us to focus our attention on God in a specific way and that our physical posture can help us achieve this.
Not only that, worship is also a way for us to experience the abundant joy and freedom of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes that requires a little movement!
King David, who wrote a majority of the Psalms of praise, understood this. In 2 Samuel 6, King David led a processional honoring the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Israel.
David became so overwhelmed by God’s glory emanating from the ark that he began to dance and celebrate freely, even leaping before God (v 16). His wife Michal, however, was embarrassed by his display and shamed him for making a fool of himself.
David responded, “It was before the Lord…And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight” (v 22).
What a powerful message and important lesson for us all!
Let’s look to King David’s example and focus our attention back to glorifying God with all of our hearts, minds, souls and bodies through worship. It’s not a requirement, but an opportunity to experience God’s love in a deeper and more meaningful way.
“May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering” Psalm 141:2.
“Lift up your hands to the sanctuary And bless the Lord,” (Psalm 134:2).