By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
Write down 5 things you would like to pray for…
The essence of prayer is about the passionate landscape of the interior life, about the deep and forgotten art of tending the soul and transforming the mind and the heart.
How do you pray with closed folded hands or open hands..both are needed?
What is found in prayer: silence, letting go, acceptance, hope, compassion and even criticism
Prayer demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person. When we do pray we often cling to a sorry past asking God to free us from it. We are however holding that past with closed hands and thus we cannot release it so God can heal the wound.
We can feel bitter because people weren’t grateful for something we gave them: you still feel jealous of those who are better paid than you; you still want to take revenge on someone who didn’t respect you; you are still disappointed that you’ve received no letter, still angry because someone didn’t smile at you. You can sit there wallowing in all that old sourness as if you couldn’t do without them, as if, in giving them up, you would lose your very self. As long as you seek retaliation, you cling to your own past.
Not by force or violence. Listen to the words the angel spoke to Zechariah, Mary, the Shepherds and the women at the tomb: “Don’t be afraid”. Don’t be afraid of the One who wants to enter your most intimate space and invite you to let go to what you are clinging to so anxiously.
Everytime we surrender on issue we are dealing with our hands begin to open. It takes patience until your hands fully open and it takes time. The key is the trust you have for God.
A prayer for opening of the hands and to begin to pray.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover
that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me.
And what you want to give me is love
unconditional, everlasting love. Amen
What about silence? Is it important for our prayer?
Yes but it can cause us to squirm and be uncomfortable. It will yield big dividends if you have the strength and the courage. We live though in a world of businesses and noise. So what can I do to find that place of silence?
Finding a place of silence is almost impossible as the world is filled with good sounds and disturbing and rather soul shaking noise that lead to a Godly life. We humans need good sounds to heal our souls. We are not wired physically or spiritually for loud noise. When we shut out the daily racket, a new inner noise can be heard. (See the movie Bruce Almighty and watch the scenes where Jim Carrey the star is answering the prayers of the people when he plays God sitting at his computer).
Letter to God
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings and the loud inner voices of my fears
keep pulling me away from you,
help me to trust that you are still there
even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice: saying:
“Come to me, you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest..
for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Let that loving voice be my guide.
Ask yourself this question, Why do I avoid prayer and silence in my life?
Prayer is sometimes opposite to what we see and do in life. We have our hands clenched ready for fight. We feel that if we don’t stick up for ourselves no one will. Rather than have our hands out as Christ did to have someone put the nails in we close our fists to protect ourselves. This is a natural reaction when dealing with people. We do not however have to have this approach when praying to God. This does not allow God to work His miracles in our lives. `
You really become a person only when you are capable of standing open to all the gifts which are prepared for you. Being kind and giving to others although tiring is really the best way to lead a Christian life. Blessed are those who give with out remembering and those who receive without forgetting.
I so much want to be in control.
I want to be the master of my own destiny.
Still I know that you are saying:
“Let me take you by the hand and lead you.
Accept my love
and trust that where I will bring you,
the deepest desires of your heart will be fulfilled.”
Lord, open my hands to receive your gift of love.
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