Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I jumped out of bed this morning eager to get started on a busy day. My morning routine typically looks something like this:

Dress, brush teeth, etc. Pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen counter to read my Bible. Pray for my family and my church family and for the day ahead. Start a load of laundry. Check Todoist, email, and Facebook, then head out the door to morning exercise class at Caroline's in Troy...

This morning as I waited for Todoist to load on the computer, I realized that I had not prayed for the day ahead. I am a Type A person who loves to have a plan and who loves to make that plan happen. Life doesn't always go according to plan, however, so it is important for me to pause at the beginning of each day to remember that God's plan may not be the same as my plan and to pray that I will be open and obedient to his plan instead of insisting on mine.

I pray each morning for open hands: for God to place in my hands the things He wants me to do each day, and for him to enable me to willingly release from my hands those things I am tempted to grasp tightly but which are not his purpose for me that particular day.

So today as I waited for Todoist to load, I thought, "Ah! I forgot to pray for open hands today!" I took a minute to consider the many things I need to get done today, and I prayed that God would give me open palms and relaxed fingers for the day ahead. And then I thought how silly it was to think that a simple, rather ritualistic prayer was so important.

I checked email and Facebook, switched the clothes from the washer to the dryer, grabbed a water bottle and headed out the door to exercise class. That's when my Plan A for today began to unravel...

Short story - I didn't make it to class at Caroline's.

When I realized that I wasn't going to be able to drive to Troy, a wave of frustration rose inside me. That frustration was checked almost immediately, though, by this thought: "Oh! So this is one of those things You want to take out of my hand today! Yes, I need to let this go. What do you have for me to do instead?"

As I headed back inside - disappointed, but not angry or upset or derailed - I thought to myself: that silly little prayer for "open hands" is not so silly after all.

- originally published August 3, 2016

We all have more demands on our time each day than we can possibly hope to meet. I get out of bed each morning knowing that I am not going to get everything on my ToDo list checked off before I crawl back into to bed at the end of the day.

How can I choose wisely what to do today, and what to leave undone? And at the end of each day, how can I be free from worrying about all the things I didn't get around to?!

The Bible tells us in James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it [wisdom] will be given to him." Those are encouraging words for this oftentimes overwhelmed mom!

This verse tells me that God is the source of wisdom. It also assures me that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask for it, and that He doesn't reproach me when I acknowledge me need for his help. I can never ask God for wisdom too many times. I can never ask for too much. God is the source of all wisdom, and He is able and willing to meet my need.

So what does this have to do with my mile-long ToDo list?

One of the first things I pray each morning is for God to give me the wisdom to know what to do and what to leave undone. I ask him to help me choose wisely what things to make a priority. I also ask him for grace to let go of things I will not be able to accomplish.

As I pray, I picture an open hand, palm up. My prayer is for God to put into my open hand the tasks He wants me to work on, and for Him to remove from my hand those things that are not his will for me that day. I also pray that I will not be tight-fisted - that I will not insist on MY ToDo list while neglecting God's priorities for me.

This "open hand" prayer does not mean I accomplish everything on my ToDo list each day. However, it does mean that, trusting God's wisdom, I can climb into bed at night without suffocating under a mountain of guilt for the Undone.

This "open hand" prayer is something I have practiced for several months now. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a new application for this prayer.

Sunday evening, a group gathered around the table had a rather animated and emotionally intense conversation concerning a topic about which we all held strong opinions. I left the table that evening feeling bruised and discouraged because I didn't think anyone else had listened to or seriously considered my thoughts on the subject. My input into the conversation had been ridiculed and then dismissed.

I climbed into bed with a heavy heart. "God," I prayed, "I want to be heard and listened to, but I have been ignored. I want my input to be respected and thoughtfully considered, but instead I have been dismissed." I was well on my way to a full-blown pity party when my morning-prayer image of the open hand popped into my mind.

I want to be heard, listened to, respected - these were things I was grasping tightly inside my balled fists. These were things I did not want to let go of, things I did not want to give up.

Then I considered my sweet Savior. He, of all people, should have been respected...but He was reviled. He, of all people, should have been listened to, but He was ignored. His opinions, of all opinions, should have been highly considered, but they were dismissed.

And He was content to be disrespected, ignored, dismissed...for my sake.

My "open hand" prayer took on a whole new meaning. "Lord," I prayed, "help me to release from my white-knuckle grasp those things which I think I deserve, those things I think I must have, but which You, in your wisdom, have withheld from me. Things like respect and thoughtful consideration. Let me instead graciously receive what you deem necessary for me at this moment, even if it is not what I would chose myself."

Amazingly, the prayer strategy that helped so much with my overwhelming ToDo list - that same prayer strategy transformed tears and emotional turmoil that Sunday evening into inner peace and assurance.

I will not check everything off my ToDo list today. That's okay. I may not be heard or valued or respected. That's okay, too.

I have given my ToDo list and my personal desires to God: He knows exactly how best to manage them.

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