Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.
~Henri J.M. Nouwen
The question is not to prepare [for ministry] but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that, when someone who is drowning in the world comes into your world, you are ready to reach out and help. It may be at four o’clock, six o’clock, or nine o’clock. One time you call it preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling, or later administration. But let them be part of your life in God–that’s ministering.
~Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Time Enough to Minister” in the journal Leadership (Spring 1982)
There is probably no image that expresses so well the intimacy with God in prayer as the image of God’s breath. We are like asthmatic people who are cured of their anxiety. The Spirit has taken away our narrowness (the Latin word for anxiety is angustia/narrowness) and made everything new for us. We receive a new breath, a new freedom, a new life. This new life is the divine life of God. Prayer, therefore, is God’s breathing in us, by which we become part of the intimacy of God’s inner life, and by which we are born anew.
So, the paradox of prayer is that it asks for a serious effort while it can only be received as a gift. We cannot plan, organize or manipulate God; but without a careful discipline, we cannot receive God either.
~Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out
The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us. No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness to Jesus and to all God’s children. Through the resurrection, God has said to Jesus, “You are indeed my beloved Son, and my love is everlasting,” and to us God has said, “You indeed are my beloved children, and my love is everlasting.” The resurrection is God’s way of revealing to us that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste. What belongs to God will never get lost.
~Henri J. M. Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift
Have you ever tried to spend a whole hour doing nothing but listening to the voice that dwells deep in your heart? … It is not easy to enter into the silence and reach beyond the many boisterous and demanding voices of our world and to discover there the small intimate voice saying: “You are my Beloved Child, on you my favor rests.” Still, if we dare to embrace our solitude and befriend our silence, we will come to know that voice.
~Henri J. M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
When I really bring others into my innermost being and feel their pains, their struggles, their cries in my own soul, then I leave myself, so to speak, and become them; then I have compassion. Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine but God’s gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me.
~Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Genesee Diary