When I raise my hands in prayer (and our family has adopted the practice for all of our prayer times), there is an automatic sense of vulnerability. I used to hunch over in church (to approximate kneeling), but now I open my palms. We don’t raise hands in church in order to respect the corporate practice of our church. Our church only stands and raises hands during the sung Gloria Patri at the end of the service. But, whenever I pray in other circumstances, I find that raising hands and opening palms opens up my spirit. I hold nothing back. I stand naked and exposed before the Living God. When I used to hunch, there was a sense of concentrating in my own little prayer-vortex. I won’t say I wasn’t praying (one could pray while strapped down to a torture rack), but what I do with my body does affect my spiritual orientation. Moses was told to take off his shoes; the least I can do is raise my hands.
John Stott has a balanced treatment of this whole matter: “To sum up, although holiness, love and peace should always accompany our prayers, yet whether we stand, sit, bow down, kneel or fall on our faces, and whether our hands are lifted, spread, folded, clasped, clapping or waving are matters of little consequence, although we may be inclined to agree with William Hendriksen that ‘the slouching position of the body, while one is supposed to be praying, is an abomination to the Lord.’ Otherwise, we need to make sure that our posture is both appropriate to our culture and genuinely expressive of our inward devotion. For Jesus warned us of the dangers of religious ostentation, and our worship must never be allowed to degenerate into ‘a piece of sacred pantomime'” (The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, 83).
Of course, if we really want to stir things up, we could ask why Reformed folks don’t clap their hands or chant the psalms. But, perhaps that’s asking too much of stiff Scottish heritage. Let’s get more Mediterranean!