How can I Pray? – Three Rules

A careful look at the lives of people for whom prayer was indeed “the only thing needed” (see Luke 10:42) shows that three “rules” are always observed: a contemplative reading of the word of God, a silent listening to the voice of God, and a trusting obedience to a spiritual Guide. Without the Bible, without silent time, and without someone to direct us, finding our own way to God is very hard and practically impossible.

~ Henri Nouwen, Reaching out
Seeds of Hope p. 120

Quiet Time for God

Secondly, we simply need quiet time in the presence of God. Although we want to make all our time time for God, we will never succeed if we do not reserve a minute, an hour, a morning, a day, a week, a month, or whatever period of time for God and God alone.

This asks for much discipline and risk-taking because we always seem to have something more urgent to do and “just sitting there” and “doing nothing” often disturbs us more than it helps. But there is no way around this. Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer. In the beginning we often hear our own unruly inner noises more loudly than God’s voice. This is at times very hard to tolerate. But slowly, very slowly we discover that the silent time makes us quiet and deepens our awareness of ourselves and God. Then, very soon, we start missing these moments when we are deprived of them, and before we are fully aware of it an inner momentum has developed that draws us more and more into silence and closer to that still point where God speaks to us.

Contemplative reading of the holy scriptures and silent time in the presence of God belong closely together. The word of God draws us into silence; silence makes us attentive to God’s word…

~ Henri Nouwen, Reaching out
Seeds of Hope, p. 122

Letting Go

Detachment is often understood as letting loose of what is attractive. But it sometimes also requires letting go of what is repulsive. You can indeed become attached to dark forces such as resentment and hatred. As long as you seek retaliation, you cling to your own past. Sometimes it seems as though you might lose yourself along with your revenge and hate – so you stand there with balled-up fists, closed to the other who wants to heal.

~ Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands
The Dance of Life p. 44

Final Integration

It is not enough that Jesus is my teacher, my guide, my source of inspiration. It is not even enough that he is my companion on the journey, my friend and my brother. Jesus must become the heart of my heart, the fire of my life, the lover of my soul, the bridegroom of my spirit. He must become my only thought, my only concern, my only desire. The thousands of people, events, ideas, and plans, that occupy my inner life must become all one in the one and only name: Jesus.

I know that I have to move from speaking about Jesus to letting him speak within me, from thinking about Jesus to letting him think within me, from acting for and with Jesus to letting him act through me. I know the only way for me to see the world is to see it through his eyes. Everything has to become very simple, very unified, very focused. It is no longer a question of being up-to-date or well-informed. At this moment in history – my own as well as that of the world – I have to go to the very center of being: the center where time touches eternity, where earth and heaven meet, where God’s Word become human flesh, where death and immortality embrace. There is really no longer a question of options. With an unmistakable clarity I have heard a voice saying, “Give me everything, and I will give you everything.”

~ Henri Nouwen, Jesus and Mary: Finding Our Sacred Center
Seeds of Hope, p. 5

Vulnerability

“He was very vulnerable man, searching for something, somebody, somewhere, somehow, which would give him the peace he was looking for. He didn’t say too much about himself and I felt ever so slightly overawed by him. He was quite a formidable person and it took a bit of time for both of us to unwind. I still don’t know why he came. He was rather different from the person I had imagined him to be… He came across as a much more complicated person – more human, gruff, edgy and understanding than I’d expected….”

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Henri

Many human relationship are like the interlocking fingers of two hands. Oue loneliness makes us cling  to one another, and this mutual clinging makes us suffer immensely because it does not take our loneliness away. But the harder we try, the more desperate we become. Many of these “interlocking” relationships fall apart because they become suffocating and oppressive. Human relationships are meant to be like two hands folded together. They can move away from each other while still touching with the fingertips. They can create space between themselves, a little tent, a home, a safe place to be.

True relationships among people point to God. They are like prayers in the world. Sometimes the hands that pray are fully touching. Sometimes there is distance between them. They always move to and from each other, but they never lose touch. They keep praying to the One who brought them together
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~Henri J.M. Nouwen

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