Monday, June 22, 2015

Henri Nouwen on Praying


Deerfield, Michigan

This morning I read some of Henri Nouwen's reflections on prayer and praying out of The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life. The person who actually prays, and lives a prayer-filled life, finds worlds opening up within and before them. Here are some Nouwen prayer-bites to illustrate this.




  • "A spiritual life without prayer is like the Gospel without Christ." (32)
  • "To pray means to think and live in the presence of God." (32)
  • "True prayer embraces the whole world, not just the small part where we live." (35)
  • "The practice of contemplative prayer is the discipline by which we begin to see God in our heart... God speaks to God, Spirit speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart. Contemplation, therefore, is a participation in this divine self-recognition." (35) [This is the language of Trinitarian theism, and John 14-15-16. Jesus invites us to enter into the Big Dance of Father-Son-Spirit. We fellowship with and are empowered within the perichoretic union.]
  • "Prayer is the bridge between my unconscious and conscious life. Prayer connects my mind with my heart, my will with my passions, my brain with my belly. Prayer is the way to let the life-giving Spirit of God penetrate all the corners of my being. Prayer is the divine instrument of my wholeness, unity, and inner peace." (35-36)
  • "To pray is to unite ourselves with Jesus and lift up the whole world through him to God in a cry for forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and mercy. To pray, therefore, is to connect whatever human struggle of pain we encounter - whether starvation, torture, displacement of peoples, or any form of physical and mental anguish - with the gentle and humble heart of Jesus." (36)
  • "Prayer is leading every sorrow to the source of all healing; it is letting the warmth of Jesus' love melt the cold anger of resentment; it is opening a space where joy replaces sadness, mercy supplants bitterness, love displaces fear, gentleness and care overcome hatred and indifference." (36)
  • "Praying means, above all, to be accepting toward God who is always new, always different. For God is a deeply moved God whose heart is greater than ours." (38)
  • "Prayer is the act by which we divest ourselves of all false belongings and become free to belong to God and God alone." (39)
  • "Prayer is a radical act because it requires us to criticize our whole way of being in the world, to lay down our old selves and accept our new self, which is Christ." (39)
  • "In the act of prayer, we undermine the illusion of control by divesting ourselves of all false belongings and by directing ourselves totally to the God who is the only one to whom we belong." (39)
  • "Prayer is the act of dying to all that we consider to be our own and of being born to a new existence which is not of this world. Prayer is indeed a death to the world so that we can live for God." (39)
  • "God is timeless, immortal, eternal, and prayer lifts us up into this divine life." (39)
  • "Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God's promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world." (40)
  • "Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive." (40)
Carve out time today to get alone with God and pray.