Saturday, March 19, 2011

The core of all prayer

Artist: Vasiliy Polenov

Our culture has sadly conditioned us to believe that time is only appropriately spent if we are using it to be productive in some measurable way. Here's something about that outlook that we would all do well to ponder:

We 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.

-- Henri Nouwen


  1. I have often wished I were a more disciplined person. However, I am not sorry to say that I've never felt impelled always to be doing something productive, whether measurably or not. I think most people are aware at some level that most of western capitalist society doesn't know the difference between business and productivity anyway. But I actually think I do. Somehow I reached a station in life that allowed me to sit on a number of committees and attend conferences. One of the main things I have learned from such meetings is that somewhere in excess of 90% of people actually believe that whatever happens in a committee or a conference is, by definition, productive. Only a small minority seem to realize that the vast majority of such time wasted. But even a majority of those feel obligated to attend anyway. As for me, I much prefer to spend the time I would otherwise have wasted taking a nap, watching a totally escapist movie, reading trash, or playing with my dog. In my opinion committees and conferences more often mindlessly collaborate to waste time than to increase productivity. Once such ongoing committee/conference is the United States Congress. I could probably write a treatise on this subject but there isn't room for one here.

  2. Thank you !
    Wonderful reflection !
    BUT - I wish I could follow it !
    Must try harder !


  3. A wonderful post. In our rule, we build in some time for reflection each day, and Fr. Nouwen explains why so beautifully here.

    Br. James Patrick

  4. I love to read Heni Nouwen. Several years ago I was very ill and confined to my home. A friend ordered "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Nouwen from Amazon to be sent to me. On the cover was a reproduction of the Rembrandt painting. It was truly a wonderful gift. I intend to read more of Nouwen's work. Thanks.



New policy: Anonymous posts must be signed or they will be deleted. Pick a name, any name (it could be Paperclip or Doorknob), but identify yourself in some way. Thank you.