With Open Hands is a book by Henri Nouwen on prayer. It is not quite like any other book I have read before. It is a small book, but it is packed with such wonderfully crafted words of wisdom that it spoke to the deep places in my spirit. Though the cover bears Nouwen’s name as the author, it was written from “many hours of intimate and prayerful conversation” with 25 theology students Nouwen invited to discuss their understanding of prayer. Throughout the book are quotes from the meetings they had. It was nice becuase it was very obvious throughout the book that it was a community effort and it would not have been as meaningful to me without them.
The book starts off with an introduction that is subtitled “With Clenched Fists.” It’s a play on the title see, and it really spoke to me. I don’t want to say more than that because I don’t want to ruin the way Nouwen presents it for anyone that would choose to read it. It really challenged me. But not in a “save the world” kind of way which is par for the course with me. Rather in a somewhat subdued but deep seated upheaval of the way I view not just prayer, but God myself, and the people around me.
Other things I appreciated about this book are the fact that there was a lot of white space on the pages. It gave me room to think somehow. It’s amazing to me how our physical environments effect the way we respond to the world. Sure, different people respond differently, and some probably tolerate things better than others, but I think it’s safe to say the physical space we live in effects us more than we know. So for me, when I enter into a book, it becomes the physical space where I live. The room on the pages made it easier to receive what was on the pages. Each chapter also ends with a “Question for Meditation.” Sometimes these types of things can annoy me as they seem canned and shallow. But I liked it in this book.
I think this is a book that anyone could benefit from and I highy recommend it. I am actually going to read it again and for me that’s a big deal. I hope you check it out the next time you are at a book store!