Prayer: A Crutch or A Surrender?


Henri NouwenWhen it comes to prayer, Henri Nouwen is my man:

Don’t we use the word “prayer” mostly when we feel that our human limits are reached? Isn’t the word “prayer” more a word to indicate powerlessness rather than a creative contact with the source of all life? It is important to say that feelings, experiences, questions, and irritations about prayer are very real and often the result of concrete and painful events. Still, a spiritual life without prayer is like the Gospel without Christ…

Prayer is often considered a weakness, a support system, which is used when we can no longer help ourselves. But this is only true when the God of our prayers is created in our own image and adapted to our own needs and concerns. When, however, prayer makes us reach out to God, not on our own but on God’s terms, then prayer pulls us away from self-preoccupations, encourages us to leave familiar ground, and challenges us to enter into a new world which cannot be contained within the narrow boundaries of our mind or heart. Prayer, therefore, is a great adventure because the God with whom we enter into a new relationship is greater than we are and defies all our calculations and predictions. The movement from illusion to prayer is hard to make since it leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy support system to a risky surrender, and from the many “safe” gods to the God whose love has no limits.

Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, edited by Wendy Wilson Greer, p33-34.

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