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Posted July 6, 2010

Taken from Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen
The book is already posted on our website

Who Is The One To Whom I Pray?

When I was staying at Genesee Abbey, I asked the Abbot a very basic question: “When I pray, to whom do I pray?” or “When I say ‘Lord,’ what do I mean?”

The Abbot responded very differently than I expected. He said, “Indeed, this is the real question, this is the most important question you can raise.” He stressed with great convincing emphasis that if I really wanted to take that question seriously, I should realize that there would be little room left for other things. Knowledge of God is a subject one can never fully master.

“It is far from easy,” he said, “to make that question the center of your meditation. You will discover that it involves every part of yourself because the question ‘Who is the God to whom I pray?, leads directly to the question ‘Who am I who wants to pray to God?” And then you will soon wonder about God’s multivalent character, and ask, “Why is the God of justice also the Lord of love; the God of fear also the God of gentle compassion?’ This leads you to the center of your heart – the core of our being.” What the Abbot meant by “heart” includes the deep recesses of our psyche, our moods and feelings, our emotions and passions, also our intuitions, insights, and visions. The heart is the place where we are most human. A listening heart therefore means a heart in which we stand open to God with all of our questions, with all that we are, and with all that we have. That is a great act of trust and confidence.

“In the quiet meditation of the listening heart, is there an answer?” I asked. “Yes and no,” said the Abbot. “You will find out in your meditation. You might someday have a flash of understanding even while the question still remains and pulls you closer to God. But it is not a question that can be simply one of your questions. In a way, it needs to be your only question around which all that you do finds its place. It requires a certain decision to make that question the center of your meditation.”