Tag Archives: worldly

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 27, 2018

prayer candles

Patience, Possible, Pray.

Father Nouwen makes it sound easy. Well, if not easy, then straight-forward.

I know very well that I sometimes am all of these unpleasant things he talks about. I hate, I don’t forgive, I clutch worldly things or attitudes to my chest and turn away from the obvious invitations and overtures God in making to me. Yes, God. Guilty as charged. Yet, Henri Nouwen does make the process of prayer sound easy. (Or, straight-forward, whichever is more applicable to me at the time.)

Yet—before I get down to the serious business of praying, Nouwen tells me there is a caveat. “You must have patience, of course, before your hands are completely open and their muscles relaxed.” [1]

Patience? Seriously? Is this trait an absolute necessity? Because if it is, I do not think I will get very far in my walk with God. Or, my continuing conversation with God, either.

In the very next paragraph, however, Fr. Nouwen rephrases that absolute, and turns it into a conditional suggestion. He even acknowledges our human frailty. He says, “You can never fully achieve such an attitude, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless. Much has happened in your life to make all these fists….At any hour of the day or night you might clench again for fear.” [2]

Ah. Now you have it. Fr. Nouwen lays out the clear dilemma of prayer and the human experience. I have such fear and trepidation in my heart. I am filled with such anger, or shame, or even revulsion. Or, God forbid, I find myself chock-full of self-righteous judgement. Any or all of these can hinder or even totally stop my conversation with God.

What do I do about all of these horrible emotions and character traits that are so deeply rooted inside of me? Nouwen says, “What is possible is to open your hands without fear, so the other can blow your sins away…Then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you.” [3]

Dear Lord, is it possible? Can I actually be welcomed into Your presence even though I am chock-full of all of these yucky emotions and character traits? Thank God, indeed.


[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 8.

[2] Ibid, 9.

[3] Ibid, 10.


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Praying as I Read a Hymn

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 16, 2015

snowy woods with sun

Praying as I Read a Hymn

Ever read the verses of a hymn and find yourself struck by the vivid imagery? Or amazed by the descriptive words used by the lyricist? Today’s prayer suggestion wanted me to read through a hymn composed by Cardinal Newman in the mid 1800’s, “Lead, Kindly Light.”

This is not my first time reading the words to hymns in prayer. A number of times I read the words of lyricist Isaac Watts and his brilliant paraphrases of Scripture, some years ago. I was struck by how, with the smallest turn of phrase, Watts could make the words of the Bible come to life. So many hymns of the 1700’s and 1800’s have words that hit me in the core of my being; make me lift my voice in praise, or cover my face in fear. (Unlike simplistic lyrics of certain praise songs today . . . but I digress.)

“Lead, Kindly Light.” I immediately could relate to the first verse! “The night is dark, and I am far from home.” That brought me into the experience of the lyricist. I knew what it was like to be wandering in the midst of a dark night. I, too, trod on dark paths, a long distance from my safe, warm bed.

The last verse, as is true with so many hymn lyrics, talks about coming home. Yet, this home Newman speaks of is not our earthly home, but home to heaven. And, I can easily think of myself as a child, especially in the arms of my loving, caring Heavenly Parent. Being carried close and led by the hand. I can remember doing the same thing when my children were small, too. Good memories!

Dear Lord, help me see through these worldly or careworn things, as Cardinal Newman could. As I read this hymn, give me fresh understanding. Not only to lift praise to You as I read, but also to be able to feel with others as they go through their places of dark night, far from home. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

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.