Back in January of 2017, Hannah and I set aside two weeks for prayer and fasting. For our fast, we decided to give up one of the things most precious to us- our evening routine with Netflix.
I know you were thinking something saintlier, but when you have three kids, the battles over bedtime can be brutal and require serious recharge. It is late- and by late, I mean close to 8:00pm; you’re exhausted from the long day; you’ve had about 13 “urgent” potty breaks, 7 “I’m-having-a-hard-time-sleeping” debates, and a number of “I-can-still-hear-you-breathing-on-the-steps” confrontations.
Do that for about seven years, and all you want to do post-bedtime is tune out and fall asleep on the couch to a BBC mystery series.
(Literally- as I typed that last period, our two-year old peaked out from behind the hallway shadows to try and pull the “I’m scared” card.)
Back to the story- as part of the fast, we felt like we needed to devote some of the time we considered “our own” back to God, spending it listening in prayer together. We had four areas where we wanted to hear from God, four areas I’m sure you will hear us talk about soon. They were: our finances, our future (calling, career, etc.), our family, & our local church family. Under each category, we took some time to list out some of our questions and to define the places we were hoping God would bring some clarity.
That list was put on page one of a journal that we would open each night during the two week period to guide our times of waiting and listening. We also dictated the terms of the fast on that page, such as no Netflix and no social media from dinner to bedtime. Along with that, we spelled out the terms of our “feast”- that is, what we would choose to do to pursue God in place of what we were giving up- which were: evening and morning prayer together and reading through the New Testament letter, Romans.
But neither of us realized how challenging, convicting, and faith-building the next words written would be.
That happened on Monday night, our first night of listening. We set out to pray and listen about our finances. The main issue was that we were in debt, and we wanted God to speak to us about how to pay it off and what time table we should “have faith for.” Simply praying out our questions about the issue, we then waited and listened. And whatever we sensed God speaking to our hearts- whether it be words, scriptures or pictures- we wrote it down.
The Truth always leads to an opportunity for faith.
If you’ve never practiced the habit of hearing God’s voice as a Christian- you should. You are missing out on one of the most incredible gifts and roles of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said His Spirit lives inside us to guide you and I into the fullness of truth and reality, as God sees it. And that’s what happens- He often speaks to you in a way that bring a sharpness and a clarity- a focus- to life and faith. It may not be what we expect, but the Truth always leads to an opportunity for faith.
That night, as we waited and listened, God spoke to each of us with many words. But the first words written were “Open Handed.”
(Personally, I thought that was a strange way for God to answer our questions about a time table for being debt free.)
The next things were:
- a scripture, Psalm 128:1: “Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him”
- a song lyric about surrendering to God
- another scripture, referring to the story of Moses following God’s way to victory (Exodus 17:10);
and then the question that rattled our souls: “If being debt-free isn’t the focus God wants us to have with our finances, will we stay open-handed?”
I didn’t even want to write it down.
I thought debt was the obstruction holding us back from all God wanted to do through our finances. Yet as we shared and discussed these words from God, we saw with focus and clarity that the obstruction was…. us.
It was our need for control, it was our unwillingness to follow God’s ways, but more importantly, it had been our lack of listening, our lack of posturing, and and our lack of walking in obedience to whatever God would call us to do. So that night we prayed a simple prayer together, answering God’s question with faith:
“God, if being debt-free isn’t the focus you want us to have with our finances, we will stay open-handed.”
That promise, that commitment to be open-handed, which began on the first night of our fast, became the theme of our response for the next few weeks of prayer. Whether it was our family, future, dreams or pursuits- the call to remain open handed became so central to the way we wanted to hold everything before God. We knew that the fullness of life that was to be experienced in each of those spheres would only happen if we were willing to let go of our plans and open our hearts to His.
We knew that the fullness of life that was to be experienced in each of those spheres would only happen if we were willing to let go of our plans and open our hearts to His.
What followed began a series of specific, steps of faith. We felt led to give more each month to missions than we previously were. We revisited plans for our ten-year anniversary celebration, asking God what He would like us to do. We held our children before God, allowing Him to dictate which scriptures we should pray over them. We even received a fresh vision for a blog we could write, detailing God’s work of faith and faithfulness in our lives.
Open Hands is our language for what it means to be fully surrendered to God’s will and to His ways, in the moment. Not just in thought; not just in principle, but in action.
The words hang in our living room, and it is our reminder to posture ourselves in such a way that God has the right to speak and call us to action, altering our plans, whenever and however He sees fit. And it is the way we are approaching this blog: Open handed for God to use it however He sees fit.
So I simply ask you to consider this: What could change if you chose to live open handed before God?
Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.