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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Prayer of the Heart

“The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him. Real prayer comes from the heart,” writes Henri Nouwen, adding: “It is about this prayer of the heart that the Desert Fathers teach us” (The Way of The Heart, Ballantine Books, 1983, page 58).

Reading The Way of The Heart will help us learn how to pray with and from our hearts.

The classic definition of the prayer of the heart comes from the Russian mystic, Theophan the Recluse: “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you” as quoted by Nouwen citing editor Timothy Ware’s The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology (London: Faber & Faber, 1966).

“The word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional and moral energies . . . it is this heart that is the place of prayer. The prayer of the heart is a prayer that directs itself to God from the center of the person and thus affects the whole of our humanness.

“The prayer of the heart is a prayer that does not allow us to limit our relationship with God to interesting words or pious emotions. By its very nature such prayer transforms our whole being into Christ precisely because it opens the eyes of our soul to the truth of ourselves as well as to the truth of God. In our heart we come to see ourselves as sinners embraced by the mercy of God. It is this vision that makes us cry out, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“The prayer of the heart challenges us to hide absolutely nothing from God and to surrender ourselves unconditionally to his mercy” (The Way of The Heart, Ballantine Books, 1983, page 59-61).

When you pray, pray with your heart.