Open Hands and Living Life as a Prayer

PRELUDE – Jason Curran


You may say I am a dreamer;

But I am not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us;

And the world will be as one.

Today’s service will include a tribute

to those among the undocumented who lost family members

and loved ones in the terrorist attacks of September 11th,

as well as a Call to

Living Life as a Prayer.

OPENING HYMN: #115 God of Grace and God of Glory



“If I Give Your Name”

by: Emma’s Revolution (Sandy O & Pat Humphries)

Let us create a world where no one lives in fear.

Where all are safe, and welcome, and free.

SECOND HYMN: #121 We’ll Build a Land


Merger Poem

by: Judy Chicago


Imagine all the people

Living for today;

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace;

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world.

   Imagine.  John Lennon. 1971.

Written the year I was born.

One of the first songs my father would sing to me.

One of the last songs to play before we laid my brother to rest

23 years ago this week.

One of the most popular songs in our peace and social justice movements.


One of the hopes that I believe we each carry with us

One of the hopes that I believe draws us to worship together each week

One of the hopes that beckons us towards lives of social activism and standing on the side of love.

But how do we, practically and truly, transform this imagined dream into reality?

I believe it is by living life as a prayer. 

With open hands and minds

rooted in

the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Imagine you have a gift beside you that you wish to give to a beloved friend. 

Now clench your fists.

Is it easy to hold and handle the gift you wish to give so as to pass it to your friend?

Imagine your friend’s fists are also clenched.

Is it easy for your friend to receive the gift into his or her own hands?

Perhaps your friend has a gift for you as well.

Imagine how clumsily the interaction, the gift exchange, would be.

If the gift were precious, perhaps even fragile, with clenched fists you run the added risk of dropping the gift,

and breaking it.

Now, open your hands.

Feel the difference?

Know this:

Every interaction we have is an opportunity to give a gift.

How much easier to give and to receive when our hands are open

to giving and receiving.

And it is not just our hands.

Feel what happens in your body when you clench your hands.

What happens in your arms, your chest, your back, your spine, your face?

Do you also notice a clenching of your mind, of your heart?

Now open your hands.

Feel the difference?

Feel the difference in your body.

(Deep Breath)

So often when we encounter

  • difficult people –

and when we face challenges and disappointments,

and especially setbacks in our lives, we do so

with clenched fists.   

Clenched everything!

Something happens, or someone does or says something

that is upsetting to us,

and we clench. 

A bracing for impact, in an unregulated tendency of shoring up our senses.

Only, instead of strengthening our senses,

our automatic clenching reinforces barriers. 

Barriers that inhibit our ability to see with clarity. 

Barriers that prevent pathways to transformation

and to peace.

This clenching also activates resistance. 

Resistance to curiosity.

Resistance to being flexible.

Resistance to learning more about a situation or person.

Resistance to better understanding each other,

and even ourselves.

Possibilities evaporate when our hearts and minds are closed.

No gifts can be shared, given or received, with fists

(or minds or hearts or spirits or even ideals)


A word about gifts:

It has been said that you cannot give a gift you do not posses. 

Worse, when you try,

if the gift you are attempting to give is not yours to give,

not within you to give,

it is a false gift

and potentially dangerous. 

To both the giver and the receiver of the gift.

For instance

if the gift is given in a form that resembles Love or charity,

yet in reality is founded in enmity or arrogance,

neither love nor abundance

can grow from such a gift.

And the result will be a depletion of energy,

and of trust,

in both the giver and the receiver of the gift.

If we want our gift to be given and received like a prayer,

then we need to inhabit the reality of living life as a prayer.

To do that,

First, we need to decide what kind of prayer we want to be.

The sources we draw our faith from offer many insights

to what we could include in our own unique description of what living life as a prayer could be to us

as a congregation, and individually.

In Chapters 6 and 7 of the Bible book of Matthew we are given a model for living life as a prayer

It is here the Golden Rule was birthed as Jesus urges us to:

do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We are cautioned against judging others. 

We are encouraged to ask for guidance when we need it.

He suggests for us to give generously to those less fortunate than us and to do this giving without pious arrogance.

He also tells us it is important to not be greedy; to not hoard the blessings and gifts we have.

He says to not be hypocritical – saying or doing something outwardly that we do not feel in our hearts.

He points out that gratitude is integral to prayer

Being deeply grateful for our blessings and expressing this thanks.

And, forgiveness.

Matthew says to ask for forgiveness when we have failed to do our best.

And to grant forgiveness when others have failed to do their best.

Also, he tells us to not worry excessively about living, about having our needs met. 

Another important aspect to our own unique expression of living life as a prayer could include being mindful stewards of our Earth, and the other beings residing here with us.

The foundation for living life as a prayer, is having a relationship with the Divine.

It is a treasure beyond compare to any other. 

This Holy relationship is one that is rooted in quiet contemplation and connection

and is revealed by each of us

in the ways we live our lives in the world.

One such indicator of how we are living in the world is noted

a few chapters later, in Matthew 12:31

where Jesus proclaims

that the second greatest commandment of all

is to love our neighbor as our self.

Cultivating a sacred and personal connection to that which we call Holy,

and abiding

purposefully, faithfully

the principle of loving our neighbor as our self;

These are cornerstones to living life as a prayer.

When we live life as a prayer,

our reactions to situations and to people become subtle,

even unconscious,

manifestations of the prayer we bring in to the world. 

This can be a process of strategically aligning

our thoughts and feelings,

actions and responses

through contemplative practices

toward how we want to experience the Divine,

experience the Holy,

experience God,

even how we want to experience the World.


how we want others to experience us.

It can also be a letting go. 

An Opening of the Hands,

of the mind,   of the heart,

of the spirit   so as to welcome in the embodiment of the Divine

into our hands,    our minds,    our hearts,   and our spirits.

By doing this we enter and merge with

what can be called The Holy Quiet.

The place of Being that is within us,

and through us, and beyond us.

By practice and by surrender,

prayer becomes co-created with the Divine,

and with others. 

And The Holy Quiet becomes part of our daily lives.

As a result:

As we embody living life as a prayer,

we shed feelings of inadequacies,

feelings of not being good enough. 

Also, we shed feelings of having to prove our rightness

and righteousness

to others,

and to ourselves.

In doing so we are liberated from self-imposed doctrines

and societal impositions of dogmatic correctness. 

Doctrines? Dogma?

Oh Yes!

While we may have a faith tradition that prides itself

on being free of dogma and doctrines,

each one of us come filled to the brim with our own

Ones we inherited for good or for ill from our families;

Ones we adopted

often as protective layers in reaction to sorrows we experienced;


Ones as tenets from the social environments we choose to be a part of. 

Much of these internalized dogmas and doctrines

we keep hidden from the world,

and from each other,

for we do not want to be judged for them. 


they can be even hidden from ourselves,

for they are sources of pain,

or at least points of opposition  juxtaposed

to who we actually want to be in the world.

And who we want to be for each other.

Yet, when we live life as a prayer,

we renounce inherited and internalized doctrines, dogmas and tenets

and begin to emulate

our personal credos though our words and our actions. 

More than that,

deeper than that,

we begin to recognize the beauty blossoming

in our own hearts and minds. 

And as that beauty blossoms,

we recognize with clarity the callings of our heart;

the Callings from God.

And it is this,

hearing and answering our callings,

which transforms our otherwise transient lives

into union with the Divine.

This union becomes evident in the transfiguration

of our thoughts,

and our emotions.

And when this happens

we no longer need to clench   when faced with

challenging situations

or people.

Because we know the inherent truth of our own hearts and minds.

We feel our union with the that which we call Holy.

And, we are eager to reveal this beautiful truth,

this beautiful prayer-full   life,

with others.

Living life as a prayer

We are open and accessible,

so others can look into our hearts

and see that which we revere

They see what our Unitarian forefather James Martineau describes as

soliloquies of the unguarded mind

Our authenticity is no longer hidden.

And, our gifts,

when shared with open hands,

are recognized for all the love they contain.


When we live life as a prayer,

we not only believe in our founding principle of

“The inherent worth and dignity of every person”

We practice it.

We become open to seeing

the soliloquies of the hearts and minds

of those we encounter who are most challenging to us.

We extend to such ones the same compassion    and curiosity

we would hope they would extend to us

for the anomalies we surely must be to them

When we live life as a prayer,

our actions uphold and support the belief in,

and realization of,

“the inherent worth and dignity of every person”

  • even if,
  • and especially when,
  • every person does not do the same for us.

When we live life as a prayer,

we model with sincerity the sentiment of Universalist poet,

Edwin Markham when he says:

“He drew a circle that shut me out–

Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.

But  Love and I   had the wit to win:

We  drew a circle   that took him in!”

Yes, we draw a circle that takes them in.

For this is how we love our neighbors as our selves.

This is how we live life as a prayer.

If we choose to meet obstacles and differences of opinions,

even ones that seem fundamentally opposed

and present challenges beyond the obvious,

If we choose to meet them

not with clenched fists

but,   rather,


Open hands

Open minds


Open hearts.

This is how we live into our first principle of

“the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

Every person.

This is how we bring into reality the dream we Imagine.

You may say I am a dreamer;

But I am not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us;

And the world will be as one.

If we are to realize this dream

The one we all long for

The one we each strive for as we pick up the mantles

of social justice and

of inclusion and

of freedom

The dream we imagine of

A world in peace

A community united

A community of love

It starts here.


In our hearts and in our congregations,

and with our neighbors,

especially the ones we disagree with.

If we find the circle that our neighbors draw

is one that shuts us out,

Then the circle we are called to draw

Is a circle that draws them in.

That invites and welcomes   and is curious.

The circle of love.

In recognition of “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

For the road to peace

is the way of peace.

And the path to prayer

is the path of prayer.

This is the fire of commitment we need to covenant with each other and with God.

This is the merging that must take place

of our hearts

with our callings.

With open hands

and open minds

open hearts


open spirits

we model living life as a prayer.

And the gift we give, is love.


And the gift we receive, is the ability to hear our own callings.



CLOSING HYMN: #112 Do You Hear?


First Parish in Concord Benediction:

“Go out into the world in peace,
have courage,
hold on to what is good,
return to no person evil for evil,
strengthen the faint-hearted,
support the weak,
help the suffering,
honor all beings.”

POSTLUDE – Jason Curran