February 28, 2007
Julian Meditations

January, 2007

Listening Prayer

by Henri Nouwen

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER ENABLES us to allow the Word of God to descend from our mind into our heart, where it can become fruitful. That is why it is so important to avoid all long inner reasoning and inner speeches and to focus quietly on a word or sentence. Then we must ruminate on it, murmur it, chew it, eat it, so that in our innermost self we can really sense its power.

Second, our prayer should be obedient. The word "obedience" comes from the word audire, which means "to listen." Contemplative prayer requires that we listen, that we let God speak to us when he wants and in the way he wants.

This is difficult for us precisely because it means allowing God to say what we might not want to hear. But if we listen long and deeply, God will reveal himself to us as a soft breeze or a still, small voice; he will offer himself to us in gentle compassion. Without this obedience, this listening to the God of our heart, we will remain deaf and our life will grow absurd. The word "absurd" includes the term surdus, which means "deaf." The absurd life is the opposite of the obedient life.

Thus, simple and obedient contemplative prayer is the way we come to know God by heart. When we know him by heart, then we will also recognize him in our world, its nature, its history, and its people.

The discipline of contemplative prayer is the basis of the contemplative life.

Taken from Clowning in Rome by Henri J.M. Nouwen (New York, NY: Doubleday; reprinted by Christian Classics, Westminster, MD, by arrangement, 1979).