on re-learning how to pray

Written by KrisCamealy

As a sequin-wearing, homeschooling, mops-coordinating mother of four, Kris Camealy is passionate about Jesus and her family. Her heart beats to share the hard, but glorious truth about  life in Christ with anyone who will listen. When she's not writing, she gobbles up books like they're going out of print and plays in the kitchen. She's been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. You can read more of her heart-words in her new book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, and on her blog Kris Camealy.com.

October 28, 2013

Sitting there in the darkened room while the book study DVD rolled on the screen to my right, I experienced the most jarring realization.

We’ve been doing it all wrong. 

Since my children were babies, we’ve practiced the folding of hands for prayers–tucking fingers together and over and under each other until they were tight enough to hold water.

With hands tightly closed we’ve murmured and wrestled through mealtime prayers and bedtime prayers, through mid-morning school room prayers and middle-of-the-night fearful prayers.

All of these petitions with our hands closed.

pray

How did I not see this before? Why is it only now hitting me, that praying with clenched hands leaves little room to receive?

I get why we did it that way, the folded hands of little people have a harder time fidgeting and making distraction during the prayers. I get it, but I still think there’s a better way.

I wonder what it would it be like to pray with our hands unfolded, what it would feel like to allow the cool of the room to settle in our open, expectant palms.

I think of saying prayers with all of us around the dinner table, hands cupped, ready to receive.

Would it feel different?

Even just typing the words, I feel a certain vulnerability. Because if we’re honest, praying with open hands means praying expectantly–it means we believe that God will fill, and in trying to believe this, we risk disappointment.

It’s certainly easier to pray with my hands closed. It’s easier not to expect too much, not to risk believing in things I can neither see nor really imagine. It’s also dry there in the desert of doubt.

As it hit me in that dark room, it wasn’t just an epiphany–it was a conviction as well.

Why do you pray with your hands closed tight? I felt Him asking.

Open your hands. Believe in my promises.

pray

He comes to those with the open, grateful hands. ~Ann Voskamp

It’s been a season of learning how to pray again–of learning how to be open to the possibilities without the fear of disappointment.

I think we will try it, the next time we gather. We will lay palms flat, upward to Him, waiting, believing that He will fill them.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

21 Comments

  1. Tonya

    Love this. I always forget that posture – palms open ready to receive. Thank you for the reminder. Palm flat is always better than fist tight…

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      I’ve been thinking a lot about the posture of prayer–and if it matters, and why it matters. Thanks for encouraging me, Tonya.

      Reply
  2. Christie Purifoy

    Beautiful, Kris. I spent years in a church where we always prayed with palms open, ready to receive. How strange that I’ve never taught this to my children. Such a small thing, and yet, as you describe so well, not small at all.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      Yes, I used to attend a church where we often prayed, with open hands, raised arms… but now, in my home church, that is not the norm, and the environment leaves me self-conscious and hesitant to lift my hands, though I’m trying to remember how good it feels to ignore that, and let my body respond to the Spirit. It’s a struggle. Thanks for reading, Christie. I don’t know why I haven’t thought about this sooner with my own children as well.

      Reply
  3. Sandra Heska King

    And what if we lived and prayed with palms down to release, then up to receive? Why do we make Him pry our fists open to do either?

    Reply
    • Sarah

      Yes! So good.

      Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      I love the visual of this. I want this kind of prayer life. Thank you, Sandra. XO

      Reply
  4. Sarah

    Kris, another beautiful lesson from your beautiful life.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      Thanks for your generous words, Sarah. My life is beautiful–your life is beautiful. We have so many gracious gifts. Thanks for being one of mine. XO

      Reply
  5. kelli woodford

    It’s really striking, isn’t it, how the position of our bodies can affect the posture of the soul?

    You have mentioned the risk involved with praying (with LIVING … ?) open-handed, and I think you are wise to do so. He’s not a tame Lion, after all … only Good. May we always pray to know the wilder side of Him.

    Thank you for these provocative thoughts, Kris.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      It’s a funny tension to me, Kelli, because the risk is there, but yet I know and believe He is all GOOD, I know my own desires are not always trustworthy, and because my expectations are sometimes sketchy, the disappointment I risk is of my own design (knowingly or unknowingly) he never fails me, and even when He answers my awkward doubt-dunked prayers, any shred if disappointment of anxiety I feel over the outcome is never because He has failed to give, but only because I have failed to open my hands to receive, to accept the gifts as He determines them, rather than how I imagine they should look. Oh, my, how I am so neck deep in learning this right now… I am not even sure if my thoughts make sense–I am so very close to it, maybe too close for proper perspective… thanks for encouraging me, Kelli. Love you.

      Reply
  6. Thomas Mason

    I had never thought about this, Kris. It’s interesting how the folding of hands for prayer has been a learned behavior for years. It’s interesting as well that by opening our hands we come to God expectantly. Thanks for such an interesting take on something that we do without much thought.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      Thanks for chiming in here, Thomas. I hadn’t thought about it much either. Funny, eh? How many things do we do without thinking, or noticing? I’m always grateful when God causes me to LOOK. Thanks, friend.

      Reply
  7. Shelly Miller

    I love how you’ve made us think about the posture of prayer differently Kris. As a spiritual mutt, I’ve experienced the gamut, from interlaced fist to open surrender. It’s all about the heart, isn’t it? That is the posture that matters most. May we reflect our inner freedom on the outside and inspire others to embrace it.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      It IS about the heart, Shelly. For me, because I am an extrovert perhaps, my body posture often reflects the stance of my heart–though this may not be true for all. I wear my heart on my sleeve and so my clenched hands are an absolute reflection if my insides. I’m learning to pray differently in both body and spirit. God is gentle and patient in His prompting.

      Reply
  8. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    I’ve been thinking much about the position of hands lately, Kris…and what my heart is saying when I’m clenched or open. This is a beautiful telling of expectancy vs. defense, of really a heart turned open.
    I understand what you’re talking about — that kind of vulnerability in prayer that is going to be different and call something different forth from our insides and maybe outsides too. I want to grow in my prayer life, really I do. This helps me think about it another way. And these photos, friend — oh, such honest sweetness.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      Praying He would grow us both, Ashley. He already is–even now. May we find comfort in that truth, as we wrestle with learning to really pray. Xo

      Reply
  9. Kimberlee Conway Ireton

    Oh, yes. Hands open to receive whatever God gives. Thank you, Kris! in my own season of expectancy, it’s so hard to keep hands open, to say, Thy will be done, whatever that is, big or small, or something in between. Thanks for this beautiful reminder to, literally, hold my hands open when I pray.

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      Learning it with you, Kimberlee. It feels different to pray this way, and even as I keep trying, I find it really hard to open my hands. The hope that it takes to believe in good things from God, even though I know He has blessed me all of my life with so many good things… it’s still hard, and I am very much an Israelite in the desert. So quick to forget His goodness, so tempted to believe He has only brought me this far to abandon me… God, help my unbelief.

      Reply
  10. bluecottonmemory

    I remember making my first communion – and it was important which thumb was on top in the clasping of hands. I never could remember which was the right way. Then later, when I’d asked God to show me to love Him like I did when I was little, He led me to a place where people threw their hands up on praise and worship and I didn’t know about that – and I’d told my friends I wasn’t going to throw them up unless He threw them up. One Sunday, my palms burned until I raised them. Every time I brought them down, they burned – and He taught me about this raising of the hands – and all the scriptures that admonish us to do so:) It is a journey – this throwing it all in the for Lord:)

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      what a tender memory. I too remember learning the whole thing about which hand went where for my first communion. I think I probably still get it wrong each week when I cup my hands at the rail. But I’m okay with that. That was a very long time ago…. So glad you joined us here in the comments. Bless you, as you continue to go all in for Him! Beautiful!

      Reply

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on re-learning how to pray

by KrisCamealy time to read: 2 min
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