Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, September 15, 2018
Prayer Means Togetherness
Father Nouwen so often hits the nail on the head. So true today: “Often it is said that prayer is simply an expression of helplessness. It is asking from another what we cannot do ourselves.”  He goes on to say that if we stop there, confusion and despair become the natural next steps.
Is this why so many today are leery of prayer? (Except in hospitals. I was a hospital chaplain at a busy urban hospital. I well understand that in dire or traumatic situations, prayer was a ready comfort or recourse for many. And, I would so often be asked to pray for and with patients and their loved ones.) But, more to the point of Fr. Nouwen’s statement, the person who is lost in confusion and despair can also be lost in a wilderness of misunderstanding and pain.
Fr. Nouwen does not leave our wanderer in a confusing and despairing wilderness, however. “The praying person not only says, ‘I can’t do it and I don’t understand it.” … when you can also add the second, you feel your dependence no longer as helplessness but as a happy openness to others.”  And, again. Fr. Nouwen is exactly correct. There is nothing demeaning, disgraceful or debilitating about acknowledging openness, even dependence upon others.
Is this mistaken attitude a fault of the gradual breakdown in communication across generations here in the United States? I suspect not totally, although that must have some bearing. Although, Fr. Nouwen wrote this little book some decades ago. This prescient understanding of an almost universal desire and longing for communication with the Holy, with that which is beyond humanity, and which some call “God” is what this book With Open Hands is all about.
I feel sorrow in my heart for those who cannot give themselves permission to feel a dependence upon others. Even upon one or two others. I realize there are those who have been shockingly damaged by truly evil treatment, and I deeply mourn with them for their losses. However, as Fr. Nouwen would surely say, God is there. Even though some are fearful at reaching out, that makes no difference. Even though some may be so pain-filled and snarl at people who reach out to them, God is still there. God will always be there.
As our mentor and pathfinder Fr. Nouwen tells us, “if you see your weakness as that which makes you worth loving and if you are always prepared to be surprised at the power the other gives you, you will discover through praying that living means living together.”  (italics mine)
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 86.