This is what happened: the monkeys, eager to get at the rice, thrust their monkey paws into the coconuts, made a fist with the rice they had “captured”, and then were stuck. They could not pull their monkey paws – fists – back out of the coconuts and enjoy the rice that they longed for. They became prisoners of their own making.
The message of the story is clear. What is it that we – that I – want so much that we are inclined to close our fists (real or emotional) around it and so no longer be free? The writer who recalled the story was advocating for open hands – open to receive, rather than closed in on some one thing that we think we want more than anything. I think it is no mistake that the physical attitude of prayer is open hands – whether held together, palm against palm, or opened up side by side heavenward. In prayer we are expressing a belief that possibilities for all we need do exist, and that we need not close our hands around some one thing we have or want today, thinking it may supply us on into the future.