One of the series of posts that I most enjoyed writing and interacting with readers on was called “Dying of Dignity.” As a young Christian over 30 years ago I often wondered why there was such a disconnect between passionate God-centered theology and passionate God-honoring praise and worship.
Apparently Presbyterian bloggers David and Tim Bayly have wondered the same thing. In a recent post, Tim said “it’s about time reformed men realize the reason charismatics lift their hands and kneel in worship and modern presbyterians don’t is that somehow, somewhere, we lost our way and now think we’re honoring Scripture and our spiritual fathers when in fact we’re directly contradicting them.”
To back up that last statement, he provides a few rich quotes from John Calvin on the importance of lifting up hands and kneeling in prayer during public worship.
The inward attitude certainly holds first place in prayer, but outward signs, kneeling, uncovering the head, lifting up the hands, have a twofold use. The first is that we may employ all our members for the glory and worship of God; secondly, that we are, so to speak, jolted out of our laziness by this help. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because in this way the sons of God profess their piety, and they inflame each other with reverence of God. But just as the lifting up of the hands is a symbol of confidence and longing, so in order to show our humility, we fall down on our knees. (John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 20:36)
And commenting on “lifting up pure hands” in 1Timothy 2:8…
…this attitude has been generally used in worship during all ages; for it is a feeling which nature has implanted in us, when we ask God, to look upwards, and has always been so strong, that even idolaters themselves, although in other respects they make a god of images of wood and stone, still retained the custom of lifting up their hands to heaven.
Bayly’s conclusion is that much of the Reformed community has strayed far from its roots in this respect, and (I would add) far from the clear teaching of Scripture. Calvin’s assessment of the spiritual benefits of physical expressions of worship is dead on target.
To sum up Calvin’s observations, through lifting up our hands, kneeling in prayer, and other physical expressions of worship:
- we…employ all our members for the glory and worship of God
- we are…jolted out of our laziness
- [and we] inflame each other with reverence of God.
As I was when I originally composed the following series, I’m still longing for the church of the living God, myself included, to passionately move forward in God-glorifying, laziness-jolting, one-other-inflaming obedience in our worship.
Here are links to the original posts. It’s well worth your time to read the comments on all of those posts.
- Dying of dignity (Part 1)
- Dying of dignity (Part 2) – David danced
- Dying of dignity (Part 3) – What’s inappropriate?
- Dying of dignity (Part 4) – The physical aspect of worship
- Dying of dignity (Part 5) – Final thoughts