Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Prayer Is the New Language that Belongs to the New House

Oval Beach, Douglas, Michigan

Henri Nouwen stresses the urgency of prayer as the first mark of the work of peacemaking.
Nouwen defines prayer as being more, being richer, than talking to God. "The invitation to a life of prayer is the invitation to live in the midst of this world without being caught in the net of its wounds and needs. The word "prayer" stands for a radical interruption of the vicious chain of interlocking dependencies that leads to violence and war, and for entering into an entirely new dwelling place." (Nouwen, The Road to Peace, 14)
The house of God is a house of prayer. The house of God is also a house of peace, correct? When we pray we enter into the house of peace, which implies that we are not in the house of divisiveness, animosity, and war. Nouwen writes:
"When I speak about prayer as the basis for peacemaking I speak first of all about moving away from "the dwelling place of those who hate peace" into the house of God. Prayer is the center of the Christian life. It is living with God, here and now." (Ib.)
Prayer happens in the God-environment, where God reigns. Here there is "a new way of speaking, of breathing, of being together, of knowing - truly, to a whole new way of living." (Ib.) "Prayer," writes Nouwen, "is the new language that belongs to the new house." (Ib., 15)
OK. But we live in a world where there is constant conflict, wars, torture, and death. We live under the threat of individual and collective destruction. In spite of this, Nouwen says we can choose the house we live in. We are not obligated to live in the dwelling place of those who hate peace." (Ib.)