Our gestures of worship (Part 4)
The most important thing about our attitude during worship always is the condition of our heart. I know, I’ve mentioned it in other studies as well, but I can’t emphasize it enough. If our heart doesn’t have the right condition, our worship is worthless to God.
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
I am He who searches the minds and hearts.
The only thing that God will not accept when we worship Him is a heart that is far from Him. Our hearts are far from Him when our lives do not match our deeds and when our focus is on anything but Him. In that case you worship Him in vain. He doesn’t want doctrines or commandments of Churches. All those people who follow those things, are worshiping Him in vain. In that case you can better switch to the sermon directly, so you can focus on the doctrines and commandments of the “church” again. But those who really want to live for Jesus, they will never worship in vain. They can come with pain, disappointment, setbacks or whatever it is that tries to keep them down. God will never reject those who need His help. But He does ask a heart that goes out to Him, a heart that really wants to be close to Him and have a relationship with Him. He doesn’t expect us to approach Him faultless, as long as our hearts are willing to change. He has never rejected anyone who is in need of His help and who wants a relationship with Him. Even when we can’t always live up to His standard yet. When our focus stays on Jesus, the change will come and He will help us to reach that standard. Nobody can enter into His presence and remain unchanged. Having said all that, let’s continue with the other attitudes or gestures of worship.
When we look in the Bible to all of the places where people worshiped God, it was always connected with a gesture of the body. In other words, throughout the whole Bible, the body was always somehow involved in worship. Our body was made to worship our God. We can use our body as an instrument to worship God. The Bible talks about several prophetic gestures of the body, which I want to share with you here.
Folding of hands
While studying the gestures of the body, the one picture I had in mind was someone kneeled down, head bowed, with folded hands. It is what most people have in mind when they think of the gestures of our body in worship and prayer. I was brought up like this as well. So I decided to start searching for the folding of hands. What I found shocked me.
While searching in all the places in the Bible where people prayed, thanked, praised or worshiped, I found that there is not even one verse that talks about the folding of hands as an act of prayer, thanksgiving, praise or worship. That confused me. Still I wanted to know what it means and I wanted to know if the folding of hands was mentioned in the Bible at all. It turned out that it is mentioned a couple of times. However, the (prophetic) meaning of it turned out to be totally different then what I expected.
Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.
In Proverbs 24:33 the same is mentioned again. Besides those verses, the folding of hands isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. That makes you wonder, right? The folding of hands is a prophetic act of laziness, sleepiness, slumbering and poverty.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Bowing our head
One of the things most people are doing while praying, is bowing their heads. Not many do realize that this actually is a deed of worship. Examples of this can be found in Genesis and Exodus.
Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord.
So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.
This is an act of reverence. It is an expression of the body of standing in awe of God.
Another very familiar gesture of worship is kneeling. This is also Biblical and mentioned at many places in the Bible. One of them is this one:
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands for Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt down on his knees before all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven.
2 Chronicles 6:12-13
This is an act of submission to God.
Falling on our face
The next phase of kneeling is going down all the way, laying on the ground, on your face.
Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him
This is not only an act of total submission, but also of humbling yourself before the Lord. You can’t go any lower than that.
Raising our hands
The raising of hands can be found in several places in the Bible. David described that he lifted up his hands as the evening offering. Literally he said he was lifting up his (hand) palms.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
This is an act of acknowledgment of God’s majesty.
Spreading our hands
The spreading of hands is an expression of the needs of our soul and our need to receive from God. By doing this, we are showing our desire to receive from God. I believe it is a way of showing our dependence on Him.
I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.
Clapping our hands
This expression is something we see very often in the charismatic movements and even in the less traditional movements. But did you know that clapping our hands is actually mentioned in the Bible as well?
Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.
This is an act of surrendering our own battles to the Lord. By clapping we are celebrating His victory over every battle that we are facing and we are honoring Him as our victorious Warrior.
We can use our mouths to speak, but as you can see in Psalm 47, our words are not always sufficient. Sometimes we have to shout. We shout for victory, but there’s more than that!
The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.
This is an act of recognition and acknowledgment that the Lord our God is among us. But it is also to let the enemy know that God is with us: Emmanuel!
Taking our shoes off
Years ago I was in Turkey, with a Christian tour group. My wife and I have been there many times, including at some places where Christians used to live in underground cities. During one of those tours, they stopped at a mosque and we were all invited to look inside the building. But they added that we had to take our shoes off. Immediately I felt the Holy Spirit say “No!”. I didn’t really realize why that was, but we listened. And while the whole group of Christians took off their shoes and went inside, we were the only ones waiting outside. It was years later that I started to understand why.
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Taking off our shoes is an act of acknowledgment of holiness. It is an act of worship and what you worship is your God. It is total submission and acknowledgment of holiness.
No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:2
In the last decades we’ve seen that dancing makes a comeback into the Churches. For a long time this wasn’t considered as a decent deed inside the Church. Yet it does appear in the Bible.
Now it was told King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.
2 Samuel 6:12-14
This is an act of joy and thankfulness and it has every right to take place in the Church. Even more, there is no better place than to dance in the Church, before the presence of our God.