Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary. – Psalm 26:2
HANDS: The other part of Saturday morning’s excellent small group discussion (see “the gratitude-generosity equation”) revolved around what Christians do with their hands when they pray.
It turned out to be an interesting conversation, especially in light of the hard-to-miss correlation between open hands and open hearts, juxtaposed with the time-honored instruction for Christians to, “Put your hands together and close your eyes…” in order to pray.
But is that the best way to approach God? How do we worship and pray? With hands and hearts open? or closed, with fists clenched tight? or arms folded in the defensive posture we see so many people – men especially – affect so much of the time? Does not God receive us with “arms” wide open?
Body language is more than just an external message, it has an actual and measurable influence on our inner selves. We may fold our arms because we feel resistant, or defensive; but we also feel resistant and defensive because we fold our arms. We may smile because we feel great; but we also tend to feel happy when we manage to put a smile on our face.
It is quite possible, therefore, to change internal feelings, and to impact sticky relational dynamics, by being deliberate about our body language. If we feel antagonistic with our spouse – for instance – but make the deliberate decision to unfold our arms, unclench our fists, and gently smile, then a more pleasant, cooperative internal feeling will actually follow the body language. Fairly soon – and this is genuinely rehabilitative – some of the angst will literally begin to drop away.
So I have been thinking about my physical self, and how I present myself when approaching God in prayer, and standing before God in worship. What if I make the decision to place my hands in front of me, palms facing upwards in a posture of supplication and humility? What might the repercussions be in terms of what the King James Bible calls, “effectual prayer?” or, in the language of the NLT, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” – James 5:16
I find that we are so often reactive in terms of how we go about our relationships, including our relationship to God; and – in consequence – we complain that we can’t help the way that we feel. But there is so much more that we can do, if only we realize the power of intention, of making positive decisions, and of simply adjusting something as uncomplicated as our body language.
It really is in our hands:
The good news is that we don’t have to wait for our hearts to completely open before we can open our hands. We can stand before God (and we can stand before the people we love) with a deliberate, proactive posture that communicates the desire for an open heart
And here is what is really cool. The message will go both ways. It will go to the significant other (God, your spouse, your child…), and the message will work its way – inexorably and effectively – back into your heart. And you will be changed.