Praying hands are not folded hands, resolved that there is nothing more that can be done. We do not pray as a last resort. This conversation with God is not a last-ditch effort; it is not a stand in or a substitute when all else has failed. Prayer is not a desperate attempt for an answer or assistance after we have exhausted all our options. We do not pray as if we are giving God a try because talking to God couldn’t hurt.

We do not pray because we are out of ideas, have exhausted all other possibilities, and nothing else can be done. When we pray we are not throwing in the towel. While prayer is a sign of surrender, it does not suggest that all is lost or that we have given up.

Instead, we have given in. Prayer is a response to a request, a spiritual prodding and proof that God is poking around in our lives. In prayer, God asks, “What is this and why are you worried about it? Give it to me.” Prayer is the acknowledgement that God’s hands are in, that God wants to be counted in, that God’s hands are helping ones.

Prayer, then, is an emptying, an unloading, an unburdening of our heart. First Peter 5:7 invites us to “cast all of our cares or anxiety on (Jesus) because he cares for (us).” Jesus, as Savior, wants to release us, free us of what weighs us down and restricts us. It will make our walk easier if we let him carry the load.

We cannot “hold to God’s unchanging hand” (as the songwriter invites us) and wring ours at the same time. If we are to make any progress, if we want to take another step on this pilgrim journey, then we will need to take our hands out of our pockets and put them together. If our prayer life is to grow and consequently our personal relationship with God is to mature, then we will need to yield.

This is what it means to pray: to yield, to accept that our hands are too short to compete with God. To pray is to concede, to give up our pseudo-superior position, to accept that we need God’s hands in our lives. This is what makes prayer hard, the admittance that we cannot help ourselves.

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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