Prayer and Presence



Henri Nouwen offers two suggestions for living the life of the beloved:

Prayer and Presence



Prayer becomes more and more a way to listen to the blessing… I realize that, although I have a tendency to say many things to God, the real “work” of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. This might sound self-indulgent, but in practice, it is a hard discipline. I am so afraid of being cursed, of hearing that I am no good or not good enough, that I quickly give in to the temptation to start talking and to keep talking in order to control my fears. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear a voice of blessing… that demands real effort.

It is not easy to enter into the silence and reach beyond the many boisterous and demanding voices of our world and to discover there the small intimate  voice saying:

You are my Beloved Child, on you my favour rests.”

Still, if we dare to embrace our solitude and befriend our silence, we will come to know that voice…

The Discipline of a Quiet Time:

If you develop the discipline of spending one half-hour a day listening to the voice of love, you will gradually discover that something is happening of which you were not even conscious. It might be only in retrospect that you discover the voice that blesses you. You thought that what happened during your time of listening was nothing more than a lot of confusion, but then you discover yourself looking forward to your quiet time and missing it when you can’t have it. The movement of God’s Spirit is very gentle, very soft – and hidden. It does not seek attention. But that movement is also very persistent, strong and deep. It changes our hearts radically. The faithful discipline of prayer reveals to you that you are the blessed one and gives you the power to bless others.

One good way to Listen:

One good way to listen is to listen with a sacred text: a psalm or a prayer, for instance… learning a sacred text by heart and repeating it slowly in the mind, word by word, sentence by sentence. In this way, listening to the voice of love becomes not just a passive waiting, but an active attentiveness to the voice that speaks to us through the words of Scriptures.


Cultivate presence. By presence I mean attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day, year after year. The problem of modern living is that we are too busy – looking for affirmation in the wrong places.

Adam, one of the members of my community, cannot speak, cannot walk alone, cannot eat without help, cannot dress or undress himself, but he has great blessing to offer to those who take the time to be present to him, holding him or just sitting with him… it is a blessing that comes from simple presence. But you know, too, how hard such simple presence is. There is always so much that still has to be done, so many tasks to finish and jobs to work on that simple presence can easily seem useless and even a waste of time. But still, without a conscious desire to “waste” our time, it is hard to hear the blessing.

The blessed one always blesses:

Claiming your own blessedness always leads to a deep desire to bless others… It is remarkable how easy it is to bless others, to speak good things to and about them, to call forth their beauty and truth, when you yourself are in touch with your own blessedness. The blessed one always blesses… Blessing can be given only by those who have heard it themselves.

Taken from “Life of the Beloved” by Henri Nouwen.


About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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