Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave untouched.
The resistance to praying is like the resistance of a tightly clenched fists. This image, shows a tension, a desire to cling tightly to yourself, a greediness which betrays fear.
When you are invited to pray, you are asked to open your tightly clenched fist and give up your last coin. But who wants to do that? A first prayer, therefore is often a painful prayer because you discover that you don’t want to let go. You hold fast to what is familiar, even if you aren’t proud of it.
Detachment is often understood as letting loose what is attractive. But it sometimes also requires letting go of what is repulsive. You can indeed become attached to dark forces such as resentment and hatred. As long as you seek retaliation, you cling to your own past. Sometimes, it seems as though you might lose yourself along with your revenge and hate – so you stand there with balled-up fists, closed to the other who wants to heal you.
When you want to pray, then, the first question is: How do I open my closed hands?Contemporary Reading:
Praying with Open Hands
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”Scripture Reading:
Mark 1:9-15 (NRSV)