Sunday School: Do We Have a Choice in How We Show Praise to God?

    For many of us, our walk with God is a very personal thing. Many people believe that all aspects of their faith are personal and that there are no rules about things like how we worship God and what body postures are appropriate for praise and prayer.

    Honestly, I’ve always been unsure about this. In some places, the Bible seems to give clear direction on this subject, but many of those places are in the Old Testament; should they still apply to us today? Is it okay to do either less or more than the Bible commands for worship?

    For example, many Psalms say to praise the Lord with dance.

    Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre (Psalm 149:3).

    Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe!  (Psalm 150:4).

    As I read these verses, I couldn’t find any hint to suggest that these were suggestions for how to praise God; they read more like commands. The Psalmist doesn’t seem to be saying, “Praise God this way if you want to, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine.” He almost seems like he’s issuing a command.

    But if this is a command for how to worship God, what about those of us, like me, who aren’t comfortable dancing?

    The same thing goes for clapping during worship; what if you don’t have rhythm? If you always clap off beat, should you clap anyway? How about raising our hands, shouting, kneeling, bowing or even lying flat on the ground? I’ve seen and heard all of these things happen during praise and worship at different churches. Are they all biblical? Are they suggestions or commands? Just how much choice does the Bible say that we have when it comes to how we worship God? How much personalization is okay?

    A pastor and very close friend of mine often says, “The amount of physical engagement a person has in worship often shows just how submitted to God’s will they are, and a person won’t physically bow in worship until they have bowed in their heart before the Lord.”

    What this boils down to is one question: Are you more concerned with what others think about your worship and praise, or what God thinks?

    I have to admit when it comes to stuff like bowing, kneeling, clapping, shouting and raising my hands – I’m all in. I don’t care what anyone else thinks because I don’t do it for them, and that type of worship is easy for me.

    However, I’m also one of the stronger singers on the worship team at my church, and sometimes I get a little shy when I know my voice won’t hit a note just right or when it comes to jumping or dancing on stage. Suddenly, I start to care what the people in the congregation will think if I sing a bad note or if I dance around. Will I look undignified or unprofessional? I’m a pastor, for heaven’s sake! Should I even attempt that kind of worship? Do I have a choice?

    Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy (Psalm 47:1).

    I desire then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument (1 Timothy 2:8).

    There are biblical examples of many different types of postures exhibited during worship and prayer. We know that praise, worship and prayer are not suggestions the Bible makes. They’re commands, and we should want to do them because God has done so much for us. How we worship, however, has a bit more personal choice involved. In my opinion, worship is simply more amazing when I get as involved as possible, but that may not be the case for everyone.

    One piece of advice, girls: However you feel most comfortable worshiping the Lord, I encourage you to add one form of worship that you aren’t entirely comfortable with and see how it impacts your worship or prayer time.

    What posture is your favorite when worshiping the Lord – kneeling, standing, hands raised, dancing? Tell us in the comments below!

    O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6).

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    Jenn Arman
    Jenn Arman is a youth pastor, freelance writer and blogger. She was born in San Diego, California and raised 2 hours north east in the Inland Empire where she lives with her husband David and their cats. Jenn desires to bring glory to God and a healthy dose of reality to Christians through both writing and preaching. Visit for more on her work. You can also connect with her on and


    1. When I’m in prayer alone I like to do meditation like we learned when I was at a Christian Leadership Camp. I like to sit up straight so that I’m more focused then if I was laying down or slouching because I do it at night with music and it’s easy to get comfortable and fall asleep. If I sit up straight I focus more. At church I sing loudly because I am a singer and I do music at our youth masses. I have heard someone say something about me for singing loudly but I don’t care because I’m not singing for them. I’m singing for the Lord and usually if one person sings loud the others will follow.

    2. I love dancing to praise God!!!!!! Just last night my friend and I got a chance to dance at a Healing Prayer service at our church, it was so amazing to be used by God. I really felt like I was ushering in God’s presence, and it felt so great to be used as a vessel of HIS honor!!!

    3. I’ve always been told to just do whatever connects you the most with God. Whether that’s sitting still or dancing like crazy. Although, in truth, God doesn’t care how bad of a dancer or how off-beat your claps are.
      Personally, I’m a dancer(:

    4. I like to sing, clap, do sign language, and even do a little jumping up and down when I worship at church. I’m not much of a hand-raiser, though I do at some points, when I’m feeling like I need to let go of something in a more physical way, or if I feel the call to surrender to something, because it feels natural then.
      I can remember when I was a bit younger, one of my friends was a person who’d be facedown on the ground, hands clasped, tears streaming down her face as she worshiped. It was holy and beautiful, but kinda painful to watch, too. Like… I would get down there with her, because I didn’t want her to come out of it and be embarrassed. I can’t believe my old line of thinking! lol
      There’s a part of the Bible where it talks about, if it causes another person to slip, don’t do it. I come from a background and church where dancing isn’t considered appropriate, so I don’t dance much there, but when I’m home I dance around when I feel lead to. The impulse to dance is a pretty strong one for me sometimes when I worship. It’s like my whole body is giving voice to the joy that I feel. ^_^
      The dancing thing is pretty recent. I used to be so bogged down by life that it was painful to think, but God’s got me now, and now I’ve got this crazy joy inside. It’s been about two months since I had my last really bad low. I mean, lows are still pretty common, but they don’t stick anymore, and they aren’t as bad. I think that’s worth dancing over!

    5. I’m a Catholic, so during mass, we stand, sit and kneel when you’re supposed to… but I have also been to my friend’s church and youth group. She is nondenominational and during worship, I have seen kneeling, sitting, laying down, hands raised, etc. and I have heard singing from the audience. When I first started going to her church, I was really shy there because I only knew her, and I had never been to any church except a Catholic one before. So when my friend sat down, I sat down, too, so I didn’t feel awkward just standing there like that. And when she would lay down, I just stayed sitting because I felt awkward laying down. I also never used to raise my hands because I didn’t feel comfortable doing that yet. I was really shy. But that’s a good point, that however you worship, it should be meant for Jesus, not for what people think of it.

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