Henri Nouwen on Contemplative Prayer

Nouwen 2

Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time.  Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus and they need to find there the source for their words, advice and guidance.  Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them.  Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because before we know it our sense of self is caught up in opinion on a given subject.  But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.

Henri Nouwen, “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” 31-32.

How do you listen to God?  How do you become rooted in a personal intimacy with God?  Which part of this quote jumps out at you?

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2 comments

  1. la cebra! · October 11, 2012

    ‘…when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative…’

    this part just stands out, jumps out at me, as you put it.

    listening to God and and having a close personal relationship with him is not always easy in the hustle-bustle of everyday life – i guess it’s that way not only for me as mom, housewife and working mom (40%)… and i admit i sometimes feel like a failure, not taking as much time as i want to.

    but then again… i connect with God through three things mainly:

    – praying from the siddur, the prayer book. these prayers are very pofound, and whilst going out to God, also link me back to the whole people, generations back, as the ancestors of the ancestors of my ancestors already prayed those very prayers-
    – through reciting blessings throughout the day. Judaism has a whole plethora of blessings, for every occassion. these link me to God throughout the day, even in the midst of acts which seem mundane and not very spiritual; same goes for various acts such as handwashing
    – hitbodedut.

    i don’t practice hitbodedut for an hour every day, but i try to at least as much as i can. What is hitbodedut? Secluded meditation with G-d. During hitbodedut, we speak to G-d, ask Him for whatever we need, confess our wrong-doings and thank Him for all the good that He has done for us.

    When we take time out of our busy lives to be alone with our Creator, to pour out our hearts to Him, to ask Him for guidance and forgiveness and share our troubles with Him, we are binding with the Almighty through bringing Him into our daily lives.Although it’s preferable to find an isolated spot to pour out our hearts to G-d, hitbodedut can be done anywhere – in the kitchen, while lying in bed, sitting on the living room sofa. For me, one of the best places is outside, in nature. The most important thing to remember is to take time out of our busy schedule to communicate with the Creator – therein might well lie the ‘secret’.

    Hitbodedut was especially taught by Rabbi(Rebbe) Nachman: Try to keep hitbodedut simple – Rebbe Nachman told Reb Noson: A person should practice hitbodedut in a simple, straightforward manner, as if he were conversing with a close friend. When speaking with a close friend, the conversation naturally flows from one topic to the next. That’s because you trust your friend and have no reason to hold anything back. That’s the way to do hitbodedut – simply, directly and with complete trust in the Almighty.

    more can be found here http://azamra.org/Essential/hisbodedus.htm

    thank you for your interesting and thought-provoking postings!

    • Chris Lenshyn · October 16, 2012

      YES! It is extremely difficult to make God part of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One thing that significantly speaks to this is, in my opinion, the loss of the Sabbath.

      I mean, we do still in the Christian world do Sunday’s and such, but Sabbath is significantly more than just taking a day to go to church. It is intentional communion with God. Our Jewish brother and sisters of the book have quite a healthy understanding in this that we in the Christian faith have much to learn from.

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