Praying Hands!

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Praying hands are begging hands, they are conciliatory. 

And they are nonviolent because they prove your inability to fight back. They prove your vulnerability. I find that beautiful — and useful. Maybe because putting your hands together doesn’t require much, not a sinless soul or even a mustard seed of faith.

I find myself these days putting my hands together at odd moments. Like when someone on the bus is talking too loud and I need patience. Or when I suddenly realize that this sky, this sun and that person are here with me now on this Earth in a moment that will never come again. Or when I read about children who are hurting in far-off lands, or someone is executed, or another friend now has cancer.

Lord, have mercy on us all.

I touch right palm to left palm and hold them together.

I notice how this brings peace to my body. How it brings me into a realm of prayer that I wouldn’t possess the key to, had I decided to force pious thoughts through my brain. With my hands clasped — and sometimes that clasping is fierce — I close my eyes. I feel my heart beating through my palms and fingertips, the two sides of my body meeting, as if the Spirit were saying, “Let her be whole again.” None of this happens with words in my head. And yet it is an awareness. One that says control and power are illusions, and maybe you will never learn, but that is OK, because you cannot control that either.

But most of all, putting my hands together, I am putting everything else aside. I am paying attention, turning on a listening ear inside the cavity of my chest, where I sincerely hope God dwells, despite everything I know about myself.

“Attention taken to its highest degree is the same thing as prayer,” the philosopher Simone Weil wrote and was followed years later by the late poet Mary Oliver who wrote almost the same thing, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” Our hands together are one good place to start. It’s comforting to know we aren’t the first humans to figure this out, and we won’t be the last.

By Dani Clark who is a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio and works in communications at an international development organization. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. This article appeared in the March 22-April 4, 2019 issue of the National Catholic Reporter under the headline: Praying Hands Are Begging Hands.

What happens when YOU turn a listening ear inside the cavity of YOUR heart?


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