Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Henri Nouwen, a great champion of prayer, conducted an interview with Youthworker in 1993 on the subject of prayer. Here is Nouwen's response to the question, "What exactly is prayer?"

Prayer is listening to God. It's listening to God who calls us his beloved son or his beloved daughter. Remember when Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River? He heard a word that came down from heaven: "You are my beloved Son." That word basically announced his identity--who he was. And it was on the basis of that identity that Jesus lived his life--as the Beloved, the one who was intimately connected to the Father.

When we pray, then, we listen to God to hear his voice--to find out who we really are. We are his beloved children.

What is important is that we continue to listen to God's voice and not become distracted by the voices of the world that tell us other things, things that cause us to lose our true identity. We need to set aside certain moments of each day to pray, not because God needs us to pray, but because we need to be reminded by God of who we truly are. We need to constantly be in touch with what our lives are all about.

Prayer can also become a way of living. it can permeate all of life. We can pray as we drive a car, as we work, as we talk to people. In that sense, all of life can become a prayer.

An excerpt from "Gazing at Jesus: A conversation with Henri Nouwen about the discipline of contemplative prayer," Youthworker (Spring 1993): 38-44.