The image shows up in fantasy art, superhero depictions, descriptions in books and acted out in movies. Often the depiction involves the sending of interference between good and evil either on behalf of, or against the plans and efforts of an entity, human, organization, etc. What am I talking about?
Before I answer that question, let me share similar descriptions from another side of the fence:
Gen_48:14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
Num_27:23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
Luk_4:40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.
Luk_13:13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
Act_6:6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
Act_8:17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Act_8:18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Act_13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Act_19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
1Ti_4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
Heb_6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
If you look up each of these references and read their context, you will discover something in the way God chooses to do things. From the perspective of the unsaved, as shown in one of the references above in the book of Acts, this particular action can be seen as mystical, powerful, and even perhaps magical.
Exodus 9:33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the LORD; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth.
Exodus 7:19 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'”
Other references in Scripture relate to spreading hands out over fields, mountains, cities, groups of people, and generally in reference to blessing or cursing or seeking such from God over the person or region the hands reach toward.
Deu_4:34 Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
Exo_14:16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
Exo_14:26 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
Mar_3:5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
By now, if you haven’t been able to clue into what I am about to say in answer to the question posed at the beginning, let me carry on.
Reaching out with our hands indeed does have spiritual and powerful significance. We reach toward God in surrender, prayer, praise, supplication, requests, need, etc. When we reach out in our need, we are reaching out in faith trusting that God will answer that need just as a child reaches out to their parent or caregiver, trusting that the person being reached out to will meet their need.
When we reach out to another as we pray over them, we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to the need that person is facing. Just as Moses and Aaron did not actually touch the waters or the sky or the children of Egypt, their obedience to God in stretching out their hands was the signal to God that they were working with Him, granting Him the permission necessary to follow through on His Word against Pharoah. We see God chastising Moses later in the book of Exodus when he struck a rock instead of speaking to it. The power present by the Holy Spirit does not merely come through the action, but through the heart of obedience accompanying the action. This is why Simon the Sorcerer thought he could buy the power he saw in Paul and Silas as they healed various people and cast out demons from others.
When you obey God’s directive to raise your hand or hands toward a person or a situation, there is a power released through the Holy Spirit in your life. Sometimes when I do this, there does indeed seem to be a sensation of something leaving my hand toward the focus of the outreached hand. This sensation gets so strong sometimes that it reminds me of the depictions of the enemy’s attempts to copycat this behaviour – an area of the palm that fills with God’s power and launches toward the person or situation needing His touch. I may be too far away to actually lay hands directly on the person or situation, but I can reach out my hands and trust God to go before me into that person’s life or situation.
As noted, the enemy of our souls has seen this powerful behaviour and sought to counterfeit it, turn it into something magical, mystical, super-power in nature, etc. Now the thing to note here is that he’s not entirely wrong. Remember that to deceive someone, you need a hint of the truth. That hint here is that this power is indeed not within ourselves but is supernatural by nature. It is endowed on us not by some suit of armour or by the wielding of some stick, wand or amulet. Instead, it is endowed on us by the Holy Spirit in answer to us lifting our hands, by answering the question, “What is in your hand?” and offering it to God for His use and purpose. The natural eye sees Moses’ raised stick and does what the court magicians did, grabbing their own sticks. But God will not be shown up by evil. The court magicians’ snakes were eaten by Moses’ snake and when his snake became a rod again, the court magicians were now missing their own walking staffs. It must never be downplayed that the enemy has what we call “lying wonders”. Wonders because he can manipulate created things, lying because they take eyes off God and onto things and cause the observer to worship the created instead of the Creator.
But the power of the Holy Spirit being sent out from one person to another can’t be copied. Fantasy tries to copy it by showing lightening bolts of static energy leaving people’s hands and causing objects to explode, stopping attacks from taking place, splitting rocks, you name it. Superheros are seen throwing their hands out in front of them to send out beams of light to stop attacks, save innocents, rescue captives, break bonds, etc. We see in the verses quoted above, that this power is only available from God Himself and is nothing we can do ourselves. In many fantasy and superhero universes, such power is wielded by demigods, halflings, super-powered exoskeleton suits, etc.
The mere fact that these depictions often include magic or demigod understandings shows again that mankind does not have this power in and of themselves. We rely on another being more powerful than ourselves to affect others and situations beyond our reach. Whether we rely on the demonic world or on the Holy Spirit, is determined by our prior choices regarding our personal status as children of God or children of the devil. Lack of decision to follow Christ is a decision to stay in the realm of satan. Those choices will determine if our actions honour God or not, and if they are detrimental or not to ourselves and those around us. How many novels and movies out there show people making deals to obtain awesome power only to have that power turn on them? It is amazing sometimes that such stories are out there, because indeed, playing with supernatural power at the behest of a being who only wants your demise will be dangerous. Only God has the power to heal, restore, renew, rebuild, rescue, and grant eternal life with Him. Yes God’s power is also destructive, there is the story in the Old Testament where a prophet was asked to curse the nation of Israel as they were about to take the Promised Land. We see Christ cursing a fig tree for not having fruit on its branches. We are told that what we curse on earth is cursed in heaven and what we bless on earth will be blessed in heaven.
As Christians, when we reach our hands out in prayer seeking blessing on others, that’s what God sends. When we reach our hands out in cursing, we better be prepared for the consequences! The Christian who is in tune with the Holy Spirit’s Will, will only call down blessing or cursing as God Himself dictates. As the lady with a long-term bleeding issue touched Christ’s garment hem and He felt virtue flow out of Him, so too do we become conduits for the work of the Holy Spirit in others’ lives. Maybe I’m the only one who occasionally senses it as it leaves the palm of my hand toward whoever or whatever is the focus of my prayer, but the fact remains that God’s power is real, and He uses His people to disseminate it in the lives of others.
Are we superheroes? No. . . not in the worldly sense. Are we warriors? Yes indeed we are as we stand on the spiritual world stage as it intersects with average human life. Are we magicians or sorcerers? NO! No chant, no incantation, no outlined perfect set of words will conjure up the necessary strength or feat of power necessary to interject in another’s life. This is demonic and not part of the Christian way of doing things. There are many books out there that outline lists of do’s and don’ts to get God to answer prayer, reach through you to others, etc and if you just pray this prayer or do that action (such as fasting), then the desired answer, action, result will be yours. Sorry, but as God has said over and over in the Scriptures, He looks on the heart, He judges our motives.
Jas_4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Many of these teachings are self-focussed, getting God to do our bidding, meet our desires, etc. But Scripture teaches that our desires must line up with His desires, that the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord, and that our prayers will not be answered if our goal is to squander the answer on our own pleasures. As a result, there are Christians within the Body of Christ who look at others who seem to work in supernatural ways, wondering why they can’t do the same things as those they observe. They get their nose out of joint and figure that either God does not look at them the same way, or they must be doing something wrong, so they turn to these books teaching a very self-focussed, very selfish view of obtaining God’s blessing.
The second reason we are not magicians or sorcerers or superheroes as we understand them in the comic book world, is that God’s efforts on behalf of mankind are always to draw men to Himself. They are never intended to be museum showcases hidden inside church walls to be enjoyed only by the faithful. They are evangelistic tools many times, to show God’s power, not our own, to a world that needs Him desperately. Many in the Church wonder why we don’t see miracles, signs and wonders in the modern church. I need to make a correction to that wonderment by pointing out that these things are still happening in places around the world where God is actively showing His power to those who need Him. Westernized churches act often like God is some sort of court jester doing tricks and showing His power like a caged WWF fighter. But that is not who God is nor how He will allow Himself to be treated. If the modern Western church wants to see God move again in miraculous and awe-inspiring ways, they need to stop being self-focussed, stop being self-centered, and start being more outward focussed again to a world around them that desperately needs Him.
This isn’t to discount the many answers to prayer and displays of God’s power in individual situations where healing is needed, finances turned around, etc, but it does mean that on the greater scale, God is still feeling much as Christ did when we read:
Mark 6:4-6 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. 5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. 6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.
The born-again child of God has the power of the Holy Spirit residing within them to do mighty works as demonstrated in the book of Acts. Christ even said we would do greater things than He did because He went to His Father and would send the Holy Spirit. Fantasy and superhero universes try to capture this power, but only God can wield it for the betterment of mankind. The next time you are asked to stretch out your hand to someone in prayer on their behalf, remember that you are a conduit of the Holy Spirit and be humbled that God has chosen to work through you. What is in your hand?