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praying to be present

nouwenHenri Nouwen (1932-1996) spent the last ten years of his life as chaplain and companion with developmentally-challenged people at L’Arche in Toronto. Born in The Netherlands and ordained a Roman Catholic priest, he wrote 40 books, lectured widely, and taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard schools of theology. His prayers touch a place deep inside of me, easily transcending any difference in religious beliefs.

Here he asks to be freed from habitual attachment to past events and experiences. The Buddha taught that clinging to the past causes suffering. It keeps us from being present to what’s right in front of us with each new breath: the mystery of life’s unfolding. 

O Lord, life passes by swiftly. Events that a few years ago kept me totally preoccupied have now become vague memories; conflicts that a few months ago seemed so crucial in my life now seem futile and hardly worth the energy; inner turmoil that robbed me of my sleep  only a few weeks ago has now become a strange emotion of the past; books that filled me with amazement a few days ago now do not seem as important; thoughts which kept my mind captive only a few hours ago, have now lost their power and have been replaced by others. …

Why is it so hard to learn from these insights? Why am I continually trapped by a sense of urgency and emergency? … O Lord, let me enter into your presence and taste there the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, preoccupations, and worries. …

source: Nouwen, H.J.M. (1981). A cry for mercy. New York: Doubleday, p.30.


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