Tag Archives: spiritual life

Prayer Beyond Activism

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 25, 2018

cross - carved

Prayer Beyond Activism

Activism is quite important to Henri Nouwen. He spends a lot of time describing the critical prophets who cry out in the wilderness. He also details those who are threatened by these prophets. Oh, these prophets in the wilderness too often receive “a stifling oppression at the hands of those who consider themselves the protectors of order and the upholders of peace and calm.” [1] Denial, verbal attacks, imprisonment, even execution—how badly the visionaries are treated. Yet, they persist. These earnest critics must keep preaching.

That is so often and so sadly true. Yes. We can see this kind of mistreatment of visionaries happen again and again. But, as Fr. Nouwen perceptively asks, what does this have to do with prayer?

“Prayer means breaking through the veil of existence and allowing yourself to be led by the vision which has become real to you….The praying person looks on the world with compassion, penetrates its hidden meaning, and calls it to an always deeper conversion.” [2]

What power does regular prayer give to a spiritual person? I think Fr. Nouwen is stating the pwer of prayer is similar to the power of a prophet and visionary. If through prayer I receive increased clarity of a vision from God, then I will look on the world with increased compassion. It will then be possible for me to penetrate deeper and deeper (I am thinking like peeling an onion). Going deeper and deeper means penetrating further into the spiritual life.

Going deeper into the spiritual life is so appealing to me, on some hidden, secret level deep within. When I hear the words “be in the world without being part of it,” I have almost a prickly kind of feeling inside. I want to experience this kind of life, this kind of deep understanding of God and of other humans.

Alas, I can get only brief glimpses of this shining spiritual life. I feel like a mere spectator most of the time, looking in a storefront or shop window. I still haven’t figured out whether I am scared to try to go deep into the spiritual life, or whether I think this kind of spiritual living is just for other people. Grown-up people, not for me.

Yet, reaching towards the spiritual life is not my doing. (Isn’t that what Fr. Nouwen says?) This wonderful power comes from above, from the Father, from the Unseen Reality. That is a great relief, and it also fills me with reassurance. God, I am not alone here. Thank God.



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[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 112.

[2] Ibid, 114.

Bring Prayer into My Life

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 14, 2018

hands folded in prayer

Bring Prayer into My Life

Going back to the original reason for this blog, I want to pray on a more regular basis. Yes, I realize this is a never-ending odyssey for me, in my spiritual life. Yes, God and I have had many conversations about this lack or deficit, for decades. And, I am going to try again. (Somehow, that quote from Yoda in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” comes to mind. “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” )

Dear Lord, taking a snippet from popular culture—and from Yoda (whom I love), I want to do. Not try, but do.

Over the next little while, I am going to read one of Henri Nouwen’s marvelous books called With Open Hands. In this slim volume, he examines his own personal experience with prayer. And as he says, “…could it be that what is most personal for me, what rings true to the depths of my being, also has meaning for others?” [1]

This book is distilled down from a number of conversations with twenty-five theology students. Father Nouwen and the students variously prayed, conversed, and contributed. As Fr. Nouwen says, this book “took form during many hours of intimate conversation, which could possibly be called hours of praying.” [2]

I already know Nouwen’s work. I have read (at various times) five other books he wrote. I am very much looking forward to this one. I know how faithful Nouwen was to his spiritual disciplines, and I pray I can be half as faithful.

Dear Lord, as I embark with Father Nouwen on this journey of prayer, I want to pray regularly. I want to get closer to You. Help me remain consistent. Knowing that Jesus is right by my side every day, I pray all of these things. Amen,



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), vii.

[2] Ibid, viii.

Practice Prayer, Like Practicing Piano

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Practice Prayer, Like Practicing Piano

I am not the best at practicing. When I was young, my parents had me study piano. I had to practice. Sadly for me, I was not particularly diligent at regular practicing several time a week between lessons. (Otherwise I would have been much better at playing, at a young age.)

I would skip days, forget to sit down at the piano, and the week would slip by. I would often find myself the day before my lesson, not having practiced at all during that week. Frantic, I would do what I could on that one day. I did progress, even though I was not diligent. What’s more, I truly enjoyed playing the piano—and still do.

I was reminded vividly of this experience with piano practice as I read the short section for today. The teacher Thich Nhat Hanh talks about sitting in meditation and prayer as a luxury. Imagine that! “In our time, in our civilization, sitting and doing nothing is considered either to be a luxury or a waste of time.” [1]

Yes, it is a practice. We need to practice at it. And as I do, I have found that (usually) prayer and meditation becomes easier. Or, more natural. Or, more a part of me—an integral part. Just like piano practice became easier the more I did it, it is similar with this prayer practice.

Why is it that piano practice is still not the first thing on my mind, even though I intellectually understand the benefits? Probably has something to do with my prayer practice. Even though I also realize that a regular time of prayer and meditation would be marvelous for me and my spiritual life, I am afraid I am less than diligent.

God, You know. We have had this discussion a number of times in the past. Thank You for being patient with me. Thank You for loving me. Help me to be more diligent in practice—in both areas. My piano, and my prayer and meditation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] How to Sit, Thich Nhat Hanh. (Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 2014), 68.

Enemies of the Spiritual Life?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 4, 2015

Cross - crucifixion

Enemies of the Spiritual Life?

“The two main enemies of the spiritual life [are] anger and greed. They are the inner side of a secular life, the sour fruits of our worldly dependencies.” [1]

Ah, anger and greed. Those two again. Two of the seven deadly sins, certainly.

Anger is so often my response when I do not get what I want, or when I feel deprived. Why do I keep getting angry, over and over and over again?

Greed … covetousness. I want what I want when I want it. *stamps foot*

My goodness! Between both of these “seven deadly sins,” I do a pretty convincing job of playing a petulant, spoiled child. Even though I don’t like to think of myself that way, I guess I do end up acting like this more often than I would like.

So, what is one solution? (I know there are more. Thank God. But, one is all I need right now.)

This reading gives me Romans 12:2 as one solution – “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The words of Fr. Nouwen are so appropriate, in closing. “Help us to sever our dependencies on the world’s distractions and give us an opportunity to find ourselves in the shelter and safety of Your wings.”

Even so, help me draw closer to You, Lord Jesus. In Your name I pray, amen


Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 14.

First Sunday in Lent – Reflection on Fr. Nouwen and Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, February 21, 2015


First Sunday in Lent – Reflection on Fr. Nouwen and Prayer

As my title says, today is the first Sunday in Lent. As such, I had a day of rest from the 40acts of generosity. (However, I did preach on generosity! See my tweet: Generous With Our Purpose – sermon for 1st Sunday of Lent http://wp.me/p5Nfg4-7  #40acts @StLukesChurch2 )

Instead of meditating and praying on the daily generosity challenge from 40acts, I had the opportunity to pray with one of my several helpful prayer guides. The one I am going to be using during the Sundays in Lent is A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. (an Upper Room publication)

Accordingly, I read through the prayer, psalm and several scripture readings for the day. Plus, I read the first Reading for Reflection. Wouldn’t you know that it was by Fr. Henri Nouwen. On prayer. Well, much more than prayer, but focusing on prayer as a centerpiece of our service to God.

Fr. Nouwen’s words are always thought-provoking. I can never read anything by him and come away unmoved. I always have some thing or some thought from his writing that just will not go away. Just so with this brief, two paragraph reading, too. (from The Living Reminder) The crux of what he said: “We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer.”

How often do I find that to be the case, in many people’s minds? Service for God is not meant to be totally separated from prayer, and vice versa. Service . . . ministry . . . prayer . . . spirituality. All interconnected, and all part of each other. God probably planned them to be seamless parts of a whole. Sadly, I do not (cannot?) make all these pieces of my spiritual life fit together so well as Fr. Nouwen suggests.

I am afraid I will never be an “isolated hermit,” but that is all for the good. I would be hard-pressed to be such, as a contemplative. I don’t think God intended that life for me. However, I can rest in God, have devotions with God, even go on the occasional retreat with God.

Yes, I don’t think I belong up on that mountaintop with God, all the time. I need to be down in the trenches, walking with the members in my congregation, praying with the bible studies and in worship services. And meditating. And in contemplation. That reminds me of one of my favorite phrases: both/and! Both service/and prayer. Both ministry/and meditation. What a wonderful reminder to me that I am absolutely doing something right—engaging in multi-faceted ministry for God.

Thanks for the affirmation, Fr. Nouwen!

(Check out #40acts; doing Lent generously at www.40acts.org.uk )

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blog, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza