In The Genesee Diary, Henri Nouwen records his experiment with life in a Trappist Monastery: “…I put this question to [my spiritual director] John Eudes: ‘How can I really develop a deeper prayer life when I am back again at my busy work? …as long as I remain surrounded by unfinished tasks, my prayer is nearly impossible since I use the time for prayer to wonder about the many things I still have to do. It always seems that there is something more urgent and more important than prayer.’ John Eudes’ answer was clear and simple: ‘The only solution is a prayer schedule that you will never break without consulting your spiritual director. Set a time that is reasonable, and once it is set, stick to it at all costs. Make it your most important task. Let everyone know that this is the only thing you will not change and pray at that time. One hour in the morning before work and a half hour before you go to bed might be a good start. Set the exact time and hold on to it. Leave a party when that time approaches. Simply make it an impossibility to do any type of work, even if it seems urgent, important, and crucial. When you remain faithful, you slowly discover that is is useless to think about your many problems since they won’t be dealt with in that time anyhow. …So praying becomes as important as eating and sleeping, and the time set free for it becomes a very liberating time to which you become attached in the good sense.’ …It seems very convincing to me [Nouwen says], even obvious. The only task left is this: simply doing it in obedience.” Henry Nouwen
“devote yourselves to prayer”
1 Corinthians 7:5
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Does it always seem to you like there is “something more urgent and more important than prayer?”
- Would you consider making a reasonable, but essentially inflexible plan for fixed-time prayers?
- Regular daily prayer is “as important as eating and sleeping.” You probably protect your sleeping and eating time. Isn’t it “obvious” that you must also plan for and protect your praying time? How will you do that?
Abba, teach me a faithfulness in prayer that results in liberation from my self-imposed, misguided tyranny.
For More: The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen (more from Bamburger from this diary entry)
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“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”