One Sunday I tried praying with open, outstretched hands. I started to have shortness of breath. My heart was telling me, “What do you think you’re doing? Knock it off.” So, at least in this instance, I listened to my heart. However, I do like Balthasar Fischer’s insight.
“I gained a new insight into this ancient gesture, when I read that the Assyrian word for prayer meant, ‘to open the fist.’ The fist, especially a fist raised threateningly, is the sign of a high handed, even violent person. People grasp things in closed hands; they use clenched fists to assault…to beat others down so that they cannot get up.
Those who pray, however, are saying before God that they are renouncing all highhandedness, all pride in their own sufficiency, even violence. They hold up their empty hands to God: ‘I have nothing that I have not received from you, nothing that you have not placed in my empty hands. Therefore, I do not keep a frantic hold on anything you have given me; therefore, I too, desire not to strike and hurt, but only to give and to spread happiness and joy. For I am dependent on him who fills my empty hands with his gifts.’”