with unclenched hands

about us This happens to me a lot, but I wonder if you have ever been in conversation with someone and have missed a lot of what they said because you kept hearing what others were saying around you, or the TV was in the background, or because of the noise going on inside your own heart that was filtering everything they said?
Did you ever think that the same thing happens when God speaks, only it’s worse because of the very subtle way He usually speaks to us – in a whisper, or even in the silence. Maybe we struggle to believe that He’s likely to talk to us because we’re so unused to waiting and listening and thus hearing with open hearts or unclenched hands.

where’s God in this In the reading from James there is an expectation that God will answer; but that we have to be willing for that answer to be whatever God makes it – we should not have predetermined what the all-powerful, all-wise, ever-present God might want to say to us, or how He might like to direct us. Just because we asked for something, doesn’t mean we’ll automatically get it – God will have the best idea of what’s good for us. If our faith is first and foremost in God and not in our prayers then we are sure that we want God to answer our prayers – no matter what that looks like.
As well as trusting God for the answer, are we prepared to become part of the answer; are we ready to follow up our prayers with an obedient response to God calling us into meeting the very need we’re praying for?

our response to the opportunity in prayer  what follows are some thoughts about how we should make use of the opportunity for communication with God:

faith
to hear from God we need to come with an attitude that is based on trust in God and chooses not to depend upon physical evidence, or even upon confirming signs. Faith is an unclenched hands attitude that says I will not create barriers between God and me, nor will  I hold on to preconceptions or ideas that may prove to be biblically incorrect. Faith also means that I believe that God hears my prayer and is, even as I pray, formulating the answer I need (whether or not I want it). Faith further implies that what I hear or see will guide me through the issue or need that I have brought to God.

receptive attitude
the unclenched hands also demonstrate a willingness to receive, that is to hear or see and become whatever it is that God is calling me to be. If I am reserved in my attitude to the possibility that God WILL answer my prayer and will open communication in some form, then I will hear very little if anything at all, and what I do hear will be muddled by my disbelief.

apt to pray
most early artwork depicting Christians at prayer shows them standing with hands raised and open upwards as though to God in an attitude that is often accepted as surrender or of supplication. It means that we face every need, every crisis, every concern, and every demand on our time and our gifts in the Presence and under the gaze of a loving and faithful God.

– ready to act
however with all that God has done to catch our attention and make contact, and in providing the enabling of the Spirit, it would be a tragic waste of time if we did nothing about it or with it. When we come to God with our concerns, and hopefully to listen for His voice, we should maintain an attitude of readiness to leap into whatever adventure He charts before us. James challenges us that faith with enacting obedience is meaningless.

so in summary if we’re to get anywhere in communicating with God we need to trust that He’s there and that what He says is worth following up on; we need an attitude that makes us receptive to whatever God has to say free of mistrust and personal agendas; we need to make prayer our natural response to most of life’s challenges and opportunities; and finally we need to act on what we hear God directing us to do, or be, or become.

for your thinking

what distracts you from hearing clearly what someone is telling you? what distractions are you able to avoid or minimise? how do these distractions, these persistent background noises form life interfere with your attempts to communicate with God?
what do you believe about God and His response to our prayer? should He respond? what should guide His answer? how quickly should he answer? what, if anything qualifies you to receive what you ask for more than anyone else? does this cover obtaining a winning lotto ticket?

how clenched is your hand, what’s clenched in your hand when you stand, or kneel, before God? do you think it would qualify you or disqualify you? how does a clenched fist stop you from being able to receive Gods answer to your prayers?if you opened palms before God what would He drop into them? does that worry you?

what’s your first place to go to when life throws you into a difficult or testing situation? who do you turn to first when you have a decision to make – whatever it’s about? where do you take your concern for a friend who is dying, sick or bereaved? how do you start to resolve conflict between you and someone else – whether a fellow traveller with Christ or not?

if our think you’ve heard something from God that is about doing something different or hard, or too easy even, does it mean you’ll do it straight away? if you hear that you might need to change, do make excuses, decide you heard wrong, believe that was for someone else? or do you thank God that He’s still talking to you and try what He says?

are you listening? does it matter that God wants to direct you – for your very highest good?

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