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With Open Hands

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,067 ratings  ·  103 reviews
Now updated, 'With Open Hands' offers gentle encouragement to readers seeking God & insight to the components of prayer: silence, acceptance, hope, compassion, & prophetic criticism. ...more
Paperback, 125 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Ave Maria Press (first published July 1st 1977)
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Average rating 4.30  · 
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Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The quote that went into my bones and will never leave me:

Praying means giving up a false security, no longer looking for arguments which will protect you if you get pushed into a corner, no longer setting your hope on a couple of lighter moments which your life might still offer. Praying means to stop expecting from God that same small-mindedness which you discover in yourself. To pray is to walk in the full light of God, and to say simply, without holding back, “I am human and you are God.” At
♥ Ibrahim ♥
This book is so charming because the one who wrote it has such a charming spirit. He delves deep into our human soul and as he genuinely feels our pain and insecurities he is there to comfort and offer practical solutions. Compassion is all over this book. And it is just as applicable for our age today, the age of selfies and Facebook, as it was when he wrote it in 1972. Man is man and our hurt is still the same. We need people who compassionately meet us where we are and help alleviate or even ...more
Translated from an original Dutch manuscript, I am one more grateful reader.

Many powerful reflections as I read Henri Nouwen's inspiriting call to Bring Prayer into Your Life "With Open Hands". Easy to read with most entries contained entirely on individual pages.

To whet your reading appetite, here's a brief quote shared early in the text - "Each time you dare to let go and surrender one of those many fears, your hand opens a little and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving..."

Great a
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Nouwen met with 25 of his students to discuss the topic of prayer and this is the output of those discussions.

It's beautiful how he uses the image of the title - "With Open Hands" - to convey the essence of prayer. Prayer is as much about our attitudinal position as what it is we pray about. To many of us we struggle to spend time in prayer because we're tight fisted on matters we're struggling with and/or prayer is not really a sufficient enough priority in our life to spend the time with the L
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christian-life
I am a big time Nouwen fan but I think this book is a really good example of the element of his writing that is a bit too cloudy and vague. I love the art with which he writes, and in much of his works, his lack of an academic tone is very refreshing. However, this work on prayer was so ethereal that until you read the very last page it could have been written by a yoga master, a Buddhist monk, or Oprah. While I think all of the previously mentioned groups have found fruitful and valid applicati ...more
Lucy Pollard-Gott
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Helpful, paragraph-length insights into the effects of the different attitudes we may bring to our times of prayer. Besides the title concept of praying "with open hands," Nouwen contrasts the "prayer of little faith" with the "prayer of hope," in which "there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded. You expect everything from the other without binding the other in any way. Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness ...more
Deborah Humphreys
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a book which never needs to be put down. Each page carries a gem of wisdom. It is small enough to include in a backpack or purse for that spare moment when a small reminder of truth could make the difference in a decision or give depth to a conversation over a cup of coffee.

Do you get my point? It is a godly, insightful, practical jewel of wisdom.
Kathy Dwyer
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received the original version of this in the 70's and it transformed by understanding of prayer.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lovely book on prayer, written very simply and vividly. Had not thought of prayer in the sense that it was presented by Nouwen. Will definitely be coming back to this again and again.
Laura Payne
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Small book on prayer that really made me think about how opening myself to God works to help me grow and love.
Gregg Koskela
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a classic for a reason.

The metaphor for the book/for prayer is helpful. The writing is beautiful and opens the mind and spirit. I love how it consistently comes back to prayer as a vehicle for deepening our encounter with the living God, and not a means to an end.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is a group effort of 25 theology students who helped Nouwen formulate his initial ideas. Lived experiences forms the background of the book and the insights emerge from such experiences and flow back into them. The book has 5 chapters consisting of experiences constituting a movement from ‘clenched fists’ to ‘open hands’.

Prayer is not easy as anyone who prays will testify. It is a relationship wherein we allow the other to enter the deepest recesses of our being and this is very sensi
Paul Mullen
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a remarkably unpretentious view of prayer that (for me) transforms my thinking about prayer from an accepted tradition based in spiritual hocus pocus to a thoughtful and natural aspect of life. The last chapter on "Prayer and critique" is worth a whole book on its own.

Here's a quotation from that chapter:

In the end the life of prayer is a life with open hands -- a life where we are not ashamed of our weaknesses but realize that it is more prefer us to be led by the Other than to try to
May 08, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a meditative work that is not comfortably read in few sittings. A rhythm of reading and meditation is most effective, giving one a chance to think about the principles presented.

Readers should be prepared for the layout, text and presentation to pull one into a quiet, contemplative state. I found this book challenging and insightful, but after having read it years ago, I confess I cannot recall what the challenges and insights were. While my initial impression of the experience was to g
Nov 06, 2014 rated it liked it
With Open Hands by Henri J. M. Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest, is a broad framework to show the necessity of prayer in our lives and to show the characteristics – silence, acceptance, hope, compassion, and prophetic criticism – by which we should approach prayer. The metaphor of the clenched fists and open hands anchors the book. The book is based in Christian theology; however, the concepts are more universal in nature.

Read my complete review at:
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
I immediately read this book twice in a row while I was on retreat. I loved it. It has many very helpful, accessible ideas on what prayer is and how it functions. It certainly was one of those magical books that appeared and explained things at the exact moment I needed them to be explained. Also, it is pretty short, so one could easily quickly read it, although I believe it very much urges reflection.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, theology
I picked up this book on the free table, and it's fine for that situation. Not sure I would pay for a copy. It's nice words, sometimes thought-provoking, a little bit challenging depending on your mindset. Good thoughts on prayer, maybe something to look at in a group or excerpt to lead into meditation or prayer. My edition had some groovy 70s/60s photos. I will be copying down some quotes before I pass it along.
Daniel Stewart
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book to read in one day, despite its small page count. It is a great book to accompany morning/evening disciplines, and is nicely divided into bite-sized sections. Some people may not find the content overtly original, but as always, Nouwen provides a peaceful and meaningful look at his subject matter. I absolutely loved the section on silence, and continue to carry Nouwen's challenging thoughts with me in my daily rhythms.
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Truly an inspiring message concerning prayer, even beyond the boundaries of Christian theology. Nouwen's writing transcends even the most basic doctrinal teachings without negating any of them. In other words, believers will find little to disagree with and non-believers will most likely feel the same. Highly encouraging and highly recommended.
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: prayer
This contains some really helpful reflections on prayer. I had a bit of trouble with his view on dreams (page 41) as well as a few other minor points. But, as usual, I always appreciate reading Nouwen and I am very thankful for the loving contributions that he left for Christians to read and be nourished by.
Dena Matcek
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have just recently discovered author Henry J. M. Nouwen when reading Return of the Prodigal Son. I am mesmerized by the depth of his understanding and his ability to connect with such simplicity on such a challenging topic. There were parts of the book that really reached out to me and made me say a resounding "YES". I plan on rereading it again.
Samuel Schaar
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Nouwen presents a perspective on prayer here which will challenge the notion of prayer as only talking to or talking at God; rather, Nouwen offers us a view to prayer as first a waiting and receiving, and then a living in the presence of whatever we receive from God in our open hands. I highly recommend it for those interested in reading more about prayer!
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thoughts on prayer with chapters on clenched fists, silence, acceptance, hope, compassion, revolution and open hands. Exhortation to make prayer a way of life. Worth coming back to. (I read this back in the 1980s and was recently wondering what happened to my copy. I would like to revisit this as my spirituality more closely resembles this these days.)
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fantastic reminder that compassion is what drives hope, and that is found through silent meditation and prayer. How can we love our neighbours, all of our neighbours, if we don't have hope and a view that the world and life can be transformed. A thoughtful and encouraging book. Continue the good fight to love all creation with hopeful compassion.
Wow - a Nouwen book I hadn't read? Beautiful... it's about prayer. Starts with an image of clenched fist and what we hold on to, and moves into prayers of acceptance, silence, hope, compassion.

Aug 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Henri Nouwen writes of the power of prayer and opening one's heart and hands to the possibilities God has in store for us. I read it with a red pencil in hand, marking many passages to refer to again and again.
Gerry Czerak
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
What can I say about this marvelous book, now older but never dated. I'm a fan of Nouwen and will read this book at least three times before I put in on the shelf. It is a prayer for frequent consultation.
Ed Rowell
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
My life would be significantly diminished without the continued influence of Henri Nouwen. While this is not my favorite of his books (that would be In The Name of Jesus), it's definitely shaped my understanding and practice of prayer.
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great slow reading. Pair with the finest of coffees and slow down. The edition I read had massive margins to promote reflection. Nouwen is always great. This one is about prayer and is so much more than a how to.
Marc Washburne
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
A simple book, yet powerful in content. Fr Nouwen brings images of prayer and the spiritual life alive with clarity and insight. He and his class/students
were unique - and the book documents this.
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of

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