Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips.”
Psalm 63: 4, 5
King James Version
“Praying the Praise Prayer – I Raise”
“O Lord our God, give us by Your Holy Spirit a willing heart and a ready hand to use all Your gifts to Your praise and glory.”
Have I offered my empty hands to God so He can fill them?
“Acceptance says, ‘True, this is my situation at the moment. I’ll look unblinkingly at the reality of it. But I’ll also open my hands to accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.’”
“R” – I raise my empty hands asking You to fill them with what You would have me do today.
When I was growing up, I attended a number of different churches with my parents, many of which had a wide-variety of worship styles. Most of the church services reflected the ethnic background of the members.
Having attended worship programs which I would call “traditional,” I was quite surprised when in the middle of one church service, several people stood up and began raising their hands to heaven and shouting loudly.
While the practice of lifted hands is common today, 40 years ago, this was not the case. As my eyes widened watching this “unusual” expressing, I quickly noticed I wasn’t the only person surprised by an unexpected outpouring of the “Spirit,” as I later heard someone call the behavior.
Today, as we look at the second letter in the word, “Praise,” we find that the “R” refers to raising our hands.
When I began the daily practice of praising God in 1996, I will be honest, raising my hands heavenward made me feel uncomfortable.
As a youngster I heard a lot about the practice of “reverence” during prayer and this meant kneeling down, folding your hands, closing your eyes and bowing your head. I know there are many of you in Transformation Garden who will find what I just described very familiar.
The other day my sister and I were discussing what it meant to be “reverent” when we were children and she reminded me that as youngsters, we never walked on the church platform. That was considered “holy ground” reserved for the “men” in the church. To add to this, I remember hearing the story about the two sons of Aaron the High Priest, Nadab and Abihu who acted irreverently with the fire of God in their censers and further disrespected their holy office as priests. In Leviticus 10: 2, the Bible says, “fire from the Lord devoured them.” That was enough to put fear in my little girl heart so I can assure you, when I went into church I kept my mouth shut and my wiggly body still. Church was serious business. And so was prayer.
When I made the choice to start my day with praise, I decided I would try raising my hands, a little at a time. First, I laid my hands on my bed as I knelt for prayer. With my palms up I thought God would certainly get the idea that I wanted Him to fill my hands each day, and for a year this worked fine.
August 28, 1997 changed everything! My world was turned upside down!
When the paramedics arrived at the accident scene on Interstate 10, the drunk driver who hit Jim and me was dead. Jim had lost so much blood they didn’t think he’d make it to the hospital. I wasn’t much better. However, God had other plans. And somehow both Jim and I lived.
Several months later, when the extent of my injuries became clear, I realized that for 3 months my entire left arm and hand had been covered with a massive cast. On one particular day I called the nurse and showed her the extreme swelling that we both could see on the end of three of the fingers on my left hand. It didn’t take long before the doctor arrived and cut away part of the cast. When he did I couldn’t believe what I saw, for my left hand looked like a deformed claw. What was worse, none of my fingers would move. All I could think about was the 35 years of piano playing I now feared would be only a memory.
Later I found that because my left elbow was so crushed, the doctors had to make a choice between repairing the damaged elbow or my broken hand. As the doctor told me, “the most important thing was to save your life. We couldn’t repair everything at once!” So they put 13 pins, screws and rods in my elbow and left my hand alone, leaving the knuckle on my third finger shoved back into the center of my left hand.
Even with all the attempts to repair my fractures, it was still impossible for me to bend my arm or move my left shoulder. Furthermore, I could not rotate my arm or hand, so I was totally unable to turn my hand over with my palm up. This meant that when I prayed, I had only one empty hand to lift to heaven. But I wanted to give God two empty hands!
All of a sudden raising both hands to my Heavenly Father didn’t seem so strange. It became a necessity. Day after day for nearly two years, I took my right hand and tried to turn my left hand over. The rehabilitation doctor said it was impossible. The surgeon agreed. And the physical therapists were told “not to touch” my left arm because they might dislodge some of the metal in my elbow.
Fast forward two years! I went to visit my Orthopaedic Trauma Surgeon – the doctor who was called when the ambulance brought me to the hospital. The same doctor who said your arm will never move. On the day of my visit he had a resident with him and was telling her about my injuries. He told her, “I have never seen an x-ray on Dorothy that didn’t have at least one fracture in it. She was a broken mess.” Then he started talking about my left arm, telling the student about my limited mobility.
But I interrupted him. I stretched my arm out as far as I could and then with “lightning speed” I turned that arm over with my palm heavenward. He gasped and said, “You can’t do that!”
“Oh yes I can!” I laughed.
Then came his next question, “How did you do that?”
And I gave him a one word answer, “Praise!”
While my husband and I will carry the consequences of the destructive behavior of a drunk driver until the day when Jesus comes again and “makes all things new,” when people ask me if God healed me, my answer is always, “Yes!” For the longing I prayed for was to have “two empty hands for God to fill” and in the wonderful words of Merlin Carothers, which I want to share with you again, “The very act of praise releases the power of God into a set of circumstances and enables God to change them if this is His design.” And in my life, change is exactly what God did.
I didn’t tell God what I wanted Him to fill my empty hands with, I just asked Him as the prayer says, to fill my hands each day. And to show you how God works, when I first began to be able to use both hands again, I was thrilled because I could button my blouse and I could tie my shoes and I could put curlers in my hair and I could cook meals for Jim and me. That’s where my vision was focused. But along came my Heavenly Father who said that my empty hands had other business for Him. And He helped me be able to write my book about Jesus, When A Woman Meets Jesus, and when this project was finished, God let me know that He had more work to fill my empty hands. That “more” became Transformation Garden, which I thought I’d write for 1 year. Then something fabulous happened!!! God’s girls around the world began to email me and say, “Keep writing!” And this year we are beginning year number 4, studying about all the women in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. At first I thought this project would take 2 years, but guess what? We’re only in II Kings studying about Elijah and Elisha and the women in their lives. Now I think this project will take many more years to “Follow His Footsteps” and study the life of Jesus in the book of John, and who knows what else God will put into my hands and into your hands as well.
As I have raised my empty hands to heaven for a daily “filling” by my Father, I have come to recognize there are three things the practice of “uplifted” hands demonstrates.
Recognition #1- I recognize my place before my God. In Nehemiah 8:6, KJV, we are told that “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ with the lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
Context is needed here. The children of Israel had been exiled, and now back home, Ezra the scribe brought the book of the law of Moses and read it and the people were “attentive” and Ezra “blessed the Lord, the great God.” When I raise my empty hands to heaven, I am saying to God, “You are the great one – not I!” This isn’t an expression that I am a lowly worm. Just the opposite. When I raise my hands, I am lifting them up to the “One” who has my world in the palm of His hands.
Recognition #2 – I recognize my need for God. In Lamentations 3: 40, 41, KJV, the prophet Jeremiah, encouraging God’s children said, “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” When you and I honestly search our hearts, we find we desperately need God – in big ways and small. Several weeks ago, I needed God’s strength and I lifted my hands to heaven and prayed, “Hang onto me and lift me up!” What a resource to tap into when our needs swamp us and push us down. We can lift our hands and be grasped by our Father whose well never runs dry.
Recognition #3 – I recognize the joy I find in God. I love the words of David in Psalm 141: 2, KJV, “Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense: and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Scientists tell us the sense of “smell” has one of the most powerful effects on our memory. To this day every time I smell homemade bread I am reminded of my grandma’s house. Now for a minute, think of raising your hands to heaven and having your praise be like the sweet smell of incense flowing to a Father who is filled with joy at the praise we bring Him. As St. Augustine wrote, “Man’s chief work is the praise of God.” Just thinking about praising my Heavenly Father makes me joyful, doesn’t it do the same for you?
Today, I would like to invite you to do something special when you finish reading this devotional. At Transformation Garden we now have friends in every time zone on the planet earth! WOW! So I ask you to raise your hands in praise to our Father, wherever you are. This means that in one 24 hour period of time, God’s daughters and sons will be raising our empty hands in praise, asking our all-powerful and all-loving Father to fill our hands with what He has for us to do today and tomorrow and everyday.
“R” – I raise my empty hands asking You to fill them with what You would have me do today.
“God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.”
Dwight L. Moody
“How can I tell of such love to me?
You made me in your image
and hold me in the palm of your hands,
Your cords of love, strong and fragile as silk
bind me and hold me.
Rich cords, to family and friends,
music and laughter echoing in memories,
light dancing on the water, hills rejoicing.
Cords that found me hiding behind carefully built walls and led me out,
love that heard my heartbreak and despair and rescued me.
love that overcame my fears and doubts and released me.
The questions and burdens I carry you take,
to leave my hands free—to hold yours and others,
free to follow your cords as they move and swirl in the breeze,
free to be caught up in the dance of your love,
finding myself in surrendering to you.
How can I tell of such love? How can I give to such love?
I am, here am I.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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