An Invitation to the Spiritual Life
By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.”
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Prayer is not magic rather a relationship between two begins.
Three Stages of Prayer
Purification – Praktiki – The practice of the virtues
Illumination – Physiki – The contemplation of nature in God
Union – Theologia – The contemplation of God
No one can ever claim in this life to have passed beyond the first stage. The three stages are not so much successive as simultaneous. Three deepening levels, interdependent, coexisting with each other.
Prayer as Discipline – Repentance, metanoia
Prayer as Nature – Contemplating the things which God has made, present time
Prayer as God – The realization of God beyond nature and in all things
Prayer in Solitude
Prayer is a time for solitude. What is solitude?
Solitude is a discipline by which it enables us to live active lives in the world while living in the active presence of God.
Solitude is not time for talking rather a time for listening.
Solitude is essential for the Spiritual Life.
How will solitude benefit us?
Prayer in Community
What is communal prayer?
“It is a free and empty space among people where together we can practice true obedience.”
Through corporate worship we prevent ourselves from clinging to each other in fear and loneliness, and clear free space to listen to the liberating voice of God.
The sacramental life in which we participate within the Church, is what constitutes our life in Christ. Personal prayer and corporate prayer form a single unity.
“There is no other virtue that is either higher or more necessary than sacred prayer, because all other virtues – I mean fasting, vigils, sleeping on the ground, ascesis, chastity, alms-giving, and all the rest – even though they are ways of imitating God, even though they cannot be taken away from us and constitute in the immortal ornaments of the soul – do not unite man with God but only render him fit to be united. Sacred prayer, and it alone, unites. It alone joins God with man and makes the two one spirit.”
St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite.