Henri Nouwen wrote prayer has for too long only been associated with piety, talking to God, thinking about God, morning and evening prayers, Sunday services, grace before meals, sentences from the Bible, and many other things. However, for Nouwen, “Prayer is the center of the Christian life. It is the only necessary thing. It is living with God in the here and now.”
Prayer is the essence of the spiritual life, and we find our true identity as the children of God by letting go of the desires of the world so we can belong to God and God alone. Prayer is the transformation of the thoughts that preoccupy my mind with the idea of my heart being the eternal dwelling place of God. I contemplate “Imago Dei,” the image of the Creator of the heavens and the earth, at the center of my heart and being. (Contemplation: Seeing the World through God’s Eyes)
Contemplative prayer is the practice of seeing God residing in our hearts and recognizing the presence of Christ transforming our minds and outlook on life. Prayer connects and joins my heart with my mind and soul so that the risen Christ touches every aspect of my life. However, this union takes place only as we crucify our egos, our preconceived ideas, and our desires to control ourselves apart from God. Prayer challenges our perspectives on life to see everything through the eyes of Christ and His eternal purpose and plan. (Contemplative Prayer)
Nouwen discerns God’s “heart and will” on the matter of prayer in our life. Prayer is the change agent producing intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a revolutionary insight where inward prayer is who I am, not something I practice only at certain times. Prayer is my life, abiding and dwelling continually in God’s presence. Prayer is the mindful contemplation of the eternal Christ alive in me.
He is the Vine I am the branch. (John 15:5) I live with the awareness that nothing can separate me from His love. (Rom. 8:38-39) Prayer unites my heart and mind with the heart and mind of Christ. Prayer not only leads me into the presence of God, but prayer is the existence of the life of God in my heart. My heart and life are safe and secure in His love. I no longer think without ceasing but pray without ceasing. (I Thess. 5:17) I live in unity and oneness with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Scripture: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41-42)