The Phenomenon in ContextSo here's the rundown . . .
Altar call is winding down, you've gotten all the Holy Ghost you could humanly handle, wiped away your conviction-induced tears with altar kleenex, and quietly slipped back to your previously claimed spot on the pew, head bowed in quiet meditation while waiting for the preacherly all-call that it's okay for the sanctuary to transition from holy ground to chatting grounds.
But no altar service is complete without one final appeal for special needs. Since this is during altar call/post-altar call and the need is a special one, laying on of hands is a must.
BUT . . . since most people have already drifted back to their seats in anticipation of the preacherly all-call, there is no bum rush mob of a myriad of spiritually shaking hands applied, as is wont in the heat of an altar call. Oh, no. Instead, there is a simple appeal to "stretch out your hand" to the person standing in need. It's as if to say, "Since we're not close enough to literally lay a hand on you, we're just stretching a hand out towards you." It's a symbolic laying on of hands, if you will.
I think the hand-stretching phenomenon comes from the idea surrounding the woman with the issue of blood who simply touched the hem of Jesus' garment in the Gospels. Jesus didn't palm her forehead. She wasn't mobbed by a well-meaning group of zealots spouting glossolalia in her ears. She just stretched out her hand and touched his garment, and bam! Healed.
So if the lady didn't even have to touch Jesus to get her victory, we reason, then we don't even have to touch the person who has a need for them to get their victory. So we stretch, knowing that surely the Spirit doesn't need physical contact to transfer from our hands to the person in need up at the altar.