Does it Matter What I Do with My Hands in Worship?
Taylor argues we’re commanded to worship, designed to worship, and should delight to worship God with our bodies (5). The remainder of the book supports these three claims from historical, biblical, theological, scientific, artistic, and ethical angles. Taylor then addresses both prescriptive and spontaneous applications for the body in congregational worship.
As a Christian, have you ever considered how your body participates in—even facilitates—your worship?
W. David O. Taylor’s new book A Body of Praise: Understanding the Role of Our Physical Bodies in Worship thoroughly analyzes the importance of the physical body for corporate worship. Embodied worship isn’t strictly a spiritual experience—the physical body is required to praise God rightly and fully. We don’t need our bodies out of the way to truly worship; we need our bodies to lead the way.
I’ve been a believer nearly all of my life, and the question still nags me in corporate worship: What do I do with my hands? Maybe it’s fear of man, or maybe I’m too hesitant to be vulnerable, but I’m always conscious of my physical movements. Taylor’s book helps us consider what to do with our bodies when we gather for worship.
Do our physical bodies really matter in corporate worship? Isn’t our soul the most important part of us? Aren’t our bodies, at best, negligible to worship and, at worst, a hindrance? The answer to this last question is categorically no, as Christians have attested throughout history and across the global church. The purpose of the body instead is to offer to God in worship what only it can offer—and what must be offered to God.
What we do with our postures, gestures, and movements in worship matters. How our senses of sight, scent, sound, taste, and touch are involved in worship matters. How our spontaneous and prescriptive activities form us in worship matters. All of it matters to faithful and fulsome worship for the sake of a body that is fully alive in the praise of God.
Intentionality of the Body
Taylor’s thesis is twofold. First, he argues there’s “nothing neutral whatsoever about the bodies we bring to worship” (4). He focuses his argument on organized corporate gatherings—your Sunday church service. (He’s not referring to worship as an attitude, lifestyle, or personal experience.) On Sunday, we bring bodies with particularities, limitations, and five senses that ought to be engaged. Since our bodies fundamentally shape our experience in the world, Taylor hopes readers will embrace their bodies as the wonderful means of “communion with God in the praises and prayers of the people of God” (27).
Second, Taylor argues we’re commanded to worship, designed to worship, and should delight to worship God with our bodies (5).