The Heart of Prayer

I admit, I’m taking the easy way out in writing this blog because the bulk of it comes from my Lenten devotional called Show Me The Way, by Henri Nouwen.  I was so struck by yesterday’s reading that I wanted to share it with all of you.

Henri Nouwen, priest, professor, author, and spiritual director writes:

“For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God.  And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God.  This idea is enough to create great frustrations.  If I present a problem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect and answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response.  And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue.  Then I may begin to ask myself: to whom am I really speaking, God or myself…?

The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him.

Listen to your heart.  It’s there that Jesus speaks most intimately to you.  Praying is first and foremost listening to Jesus, who dwells in the very depths of your heart.  He doesn’t shout.  He doesn’t thrust himself upon you.  His voice is an unassuming voice, very nearly a whisper, the voice of a gentle love.  Whatever you do with your life, go on listening to the voice of Jesus in your heart.  This listening must be an active and very attentive listening, for in our restless and noisy world God’s so loving voice is easily drowned out.  You need to set aside some time every day for this active listening to God if only for ten minutes.  Ten Minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in your life.

You’ll find that is isn’t easy to be still for ten minutes at a time.  You’ll discover straightaway that many other voices, voices that are very noisy and distracting, voices that do not come from God, demand your attention.  But if you stick to your daily prayer time, then slowly, but surely you’ll come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.

Deep silence leads us to suspect that, in the first place, prayer is acceptance.  People who pray stand with their hands open to the world.  They know that God will show himself in the nature that surrounds them, in the people they meet, in the situations they run into. They trust that the world holds God’s secret within it, and they expect that secret to be shown to them.  Prayer creates that openness where God can give himself to us.  Indeed, God wants to give himself; he wants to surrender himself to the person he has created; God even begs to be admitted into the human heart.”

These thoughts from Nouwen are so simple and common sense, but so important to remember.  The statement “The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him”  hit me between the eyes.  Nouwen really holds us accountable for silencing the voice we want to raise to God, and focusing our heart AND our head on listening to Him, even if we feel nothing is happening.  In the silence, God molds us into His image.

I pray that you are seeking and finding God in new and impactful ways through this Lent season.

Deb Griest