This week, we are exploring the movement Henri Nouwen describes from illusion to prayer. Below are several prayers to help you engage in a deeper life with Jesus through prayer.
A Prayer of Recollection
I am not God, but a finite creation of God.
Lord, I know that I have a body that has limits.
I am here right now and cannot be other places.
I cannot grant everybody’s wishes.
I am grateful for the truth that I am not you, God.
Only You can meet all the needs around me.
Calls us to rest in God’s sovereignty and love — God will accomplish God’s purposes. We don’t need to be God.
In my deepest place, I am not my names, roles and qualities, and these are not my righteousness (my salvation, my rest).
At my deepest place I am not a daughter or son, a husband or wife, a father or mother, a boyfriend or girlfriend.
I am not what I do. I am not how much money I make.
At my deepest place, I am not what others have named me.
I am not my failures. I am not my successes. I am not my strengths. I am not my weaknesses.
I confess any image of myself I cling to as a means to find my own salvation, my own righteousness apart from you.
Calls us to rest from, indeed to repent of, our efforts to somehow find our identity, our worth, our salvation, in things apart from God.
I affirm the truth of my soul’s identity in Christ.
In my deepest place, I am a spirit now clothed with the righteousness of Christ. I am precious in God’s eyes.
From all eternity, God calls me beloved and holds me with an everlasting embrace.
Calls us to rest in our deepest identity as God’s beloved, which was given to us through the cross of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.
Live in me. Make your home in me as I do in you.
— Jesus in John 15:4 (The Message)
You must begin by fixing this truth in your minds: that there is within you a palace of surpassing splendor, whose whole structure is composed of gold and most precious stones — such, indeed, as is fitting for the great King who resides within it; and that the beauty of your own soul is, in part, the cause why this palace is so beautiful.
— Teresa of Avila
Since God’s Divine Majesty has made the soul to God’s own image, how great must be its dignity, how surpassing its beauty! It is a sad pity, and a shame as well, that we do not know ourselves and what we are.
— Teresa of Avila
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
forever and ever.
The Jesus Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me,
A Prayer by Thomas Keating
Here I am, Dear Lord, desperately in need of your Holy Spirit.
Give me your Holy Spirit, according to Your promise.
I don’t know how to ask rightly,
so I just sit here and allow You to pray in me,
asking for what You most want to bestow,
which is Your own Holy Spirit —
with the Gifts through which the Holy Spirit takes over more and more of my life.
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
A Prayer for the Evening (Compline)
Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give Your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary,
bless the dying,
soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous;
and all for Your love’s sake.
from Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen
As you pray, imagine yourself sitting on the bench at Saint-Rémy de Provence, under a tall old tree as painted by Vincent van Gogh.
Read this parable shared by Henri Nouwen, adapted from Chuang Tzu:
A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?”
“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”
How is this tree useful? How is it useless? How does it glorify God in its branches and shade? Can all creation praise God by simply being what it was created to be?
Consider these questions, and then simply look at the image for ten minutes letting God speak to you through the image. Write down your thoughts and reflections.
Like the old tree in the parable, we don’t pray to be productive or useful, but to be open and grateful. In prayer and meditation, we can live and be; we can bear or not bear fruit, and we can grow old freely, without being preoccupied with our usefulness. Faithfulness in prayer is its own reward, with or without tangible results.