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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Heart Speaks to Heart

Last September 23rd I wrote a blog posting on the prayer of the heart that prompted some questions via Comments:

I responded with a lengthy comment and noted that another post would continue the conversation. Here, then, are some words of Henri Nouwen’s (The Way of The Heart, Ballantine Books, 1983, pages 74, 76-77) that may be useful to anyone questioning how far he or she should go in the pursuit of prayer:

“Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at that point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. There God’s Spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place. There heart speaks to heart because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, within us.

“We have to realize that here the word heart is used in its full biblical meaning. In our milieu the word heart has become a soft word. It refers to the seat of the sentimental life. Expressions such as ‘heartbroken’ and ‘heartfelt’ show that we often think of the heart as the warm place where the emotions are located in contrast to the cool intellect where our thoughts find their home. But the word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.

“From the heart arise unknowable impulses as well as conscious feelings, moods, and wishes. The heart, too, has its reasons and is the center of perception and understanding. Finally, the heart is the seat of the will: it makes plans and comes to good decisions. Thus the heart is the central and unifying organ of our personal life. Our heart determines our personality, and is therefore not only the place where God dwells but also the place to which Satan directs his fiercest attacks. 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 challenges us to hide absolutely nothing from God and to surrender ourselves unconditionally to his mercy.

“Thus the prayer of the heart is the prayer of truth. It unmasks the many illusions about ourselves and about God and leads us into the true relationship of the sinner to the merciful God.

“Temptations and struggles will remain to the end of our lives, but with a pure heart we will be restful even in the midst of a restless existence.”