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Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship

Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship

by Chris Tomlin
Darren Whitehead

Learn More | Meet Chris Tomlin | Meet Darren Whitehead


The Hands of Praise


Yâdâh, yaw-daw: To revere or worship with extended hands. To hold out the hands. To throw a stone or arrow.

May the peoples praise (yâdâh) you, God;
may all the peoples praise
(yâdâh) you.

—Psalm 67:3

It 's true; in my youth, I was prone to poke fun at those who were expressive in worship. On a rare occasion, when someone dared to branch out with a rasied hand in our otherwise stolid service, I 'd lean over to one of my mates, or whoever might besitting beside me, and I 'd ask, "Do they need to go to the bathroom?" We 'd get a good chuckle from the experience, then go back to singing hymns, eyes fixed on the pages of those old hymnbooks. Hand-raisers, see, were outside the norms of our church subculture. They were too emotional, the folks on the edges.

As I wrote in the introduction, I followed my friend to a more expressive church in my early adulthood, and after a time, I became a regular attendee of that church. It was a church full of hand-raisers, kneelers, and dancers, and as much as I enjoyed their freedom to express their emotions in praise and worship, I clung to some of my reserved tendencies: Keep your eyes on the words. Don 't get too emotional. Don 't be a distraction. Why didn 't I feel the same freedom as the rest of the congregation? What was holding me back?

Freedom doesn 't always come overnight, I suppose.

I wouldn 't find the freedom to express myself in praise to God in a congregational setting— at least, not at first. Instead, God overcame my inhibitions in the privacy of my 1982 cherry-red Mazda RX-7. It was one of my first cars, one with a CD player and a distinct snese of cool. And cool as that car was, it surprised me when a friend gave me a CD to play while I drove around town, one that I prejudged as anything but cool.

The album was one of the first by Hillsong, and it was entitled The Power of Your Love. These were the days before the Hillsong craze, before they 'd written so many of the songs sung in churches around the world. In fact, it was before the modern worship movement was in full swing. I 'd never heard of Hillsong, so I asked what kind of music they played. It was a collection of worship songs and choruses, he said, and my response was less than pious.

"Church music? Why would I want to listen to that in my car?" I asked.

"Trust me, mate," he said. "You need to check this out."

He was a good friend, and I trusted him; so on his recommendation, I began listening to that CD. I listened and listened, and over the weeks that followed, something happened, something I didn 't expect. I found myself in my car, not reaching for my old music—INXS, Midnight Oil, or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Instead, I began craving that early recording of Hillsong choruses. Thos songs ambushed me, and as I listened, I found myself drawn into the presence of God. He was there, in that music, in my car, and it was in that expanding reality that I finally broke.

I was listening to The Power of Your Love on an afternoon just like any other. I pulled up to a stoplight, and in that moment, while waiting for the light to turn green, I was overcome by the goodness and power of God. Without a second thought, I took my hands from the steering wheel and lifted them. It was the most natural expression, and in that moment, I knew it: I 'd become one of them. I 'd switched teams.

I 've been a hand-raiser ever since.

Is there any more natural expression of excitement, wonder, or awe than raising your hands? Whether it 's the excitement that comes when your favorite sports team scores a goal, the joy of receiving an unexpected promotion, or the elation that comes with a declaration of victory in battle, aren 't we prone to expressing enthusiasm with upshot hands? It 's almost a primal instinct, something coded in our DNA. And regardless of the language you speak, the color of your skin, or your country of origin, haven 't you felt this urge?

In the same way, the Hebrew people showed their excitement and enthusiasm for God in praise and worship by raising their hands. This posture of worship is expressed in the Psalms by the Hebrew word yâdâh.

Yâdâh is one of the seven words translated in the Old Testament as "praise," and it 's found over 111 times in Scripture. It is defined as a word meaning to "extend hands" or "to throw out the hand," and it is used to describe the act of shooting an arrow (Jeremiah 50:14) or throwing a stone (Lamentations 3:53). In the context of praise, yâdâh describes those moments when the Hebrew people were so overcome by the glory of the Lord that their hands shot upward in response.

In Psalm 145:10, David wrote,

    All your works praise you, (yâdâh) Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.

In the psalm, David declares that God 's people could not help but raise their hands in praise for God 's faithfulness; they could not help but yâdâh the Lord.

In Psalm 67:3, the psalmist penned a song of praise for the people. The text reads,

    May the peoples praise (yâdâh) you, God;
    may all the people praise (yâdâh) you.

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