Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

Prayer – The “Aunty Nelly” factor…


“You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.” Henri Nouwen

Aunty NellyMany years ago, as a young boy, I was dragged along by my parents to the Sunday afternoon tea ritual with my Aunty Nelly.  Numbed and damagedly bored by the conversation I would inwardly groan as the pointing finger of my Aunt rose in my direction.

“Why is he so big” she would say. Such a question simply opened up a black hole of despair in my vulnerable brain, but my Dad came to the rescue.

“He is big, because he eats lots of bread pudding…”

Arriving home after the ordeal, I looked up to my Dad and asked,

“Am I really big because of bread pudding?”

“No son,” he replied,

“The bread pudding was for your Aunty Nelly…You are big because I love you. It’s my loving that make’s you grow.”

With that he knelt down, gave me a hug and planted a big kiss on my forehead.

That lesson has stayed with me for decades. If you want to grow big, if you want to learn to pray, you must know that you are loved! It is not the “bread pudding” of quick fix, legalistic formulas and Christian jargon that will strengthen your spiritual muscle, but a simple surrendering to an intimate relation with your heavenly Father.

Jesus, at the very beginning of his ministry, models this prayer and life principle for us.

 “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

When you pray, heaven opens and the Holy Spirit descends.Jesus being baptized

Prayer also begins a dialogue – it releases the voice of the Father carried on the wings of a dove. Hearing this voice is the basic essential for building a prayer life. Hear His voice speaking to you now, calming the storm of pain and suffering or invading the mundane monotony of yet another prayerless day.

“You are my son/daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

We all become heroes when we know we are loved.

Allow the kiss of the Holy Spirit to settle on your forehead, and let Him strengthen you for prayer. Don’t worry if you do not know what to pray in the beginning – such weakness is actually a great asset!

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26

Do you sometimes “groan” inwardly as you watch the news or see the madness of life around you? Do deep sighs nestle in your breast as you contemplate your own limits to living? Interpret the breath of God into such pain and find a prayer that even the greatest poet cannot pen.

Great groaners can become great prayers.

As you carry the longing up your own particular mountain of prayer, remember to hear the all sustaining voice that leads you upward.

In your pain and doubt you cry, “Do you love me, do you really love me?”

Choose to hear the “yes”



The Little River


The little river said,little river

“I can become big river.”

It worked hard, but their was a big rock. The river said, “I’m going to get around this rock.” The little river pushed and pushed, and since it had a lot of strength, it got itself around the rock.

Soon the river faced a big wall, and the river kept pushing this wall. Eventually, the river made a canyon and carved a way through. The growing river said, “I can do it. I can push it. I am not going to give up for anything.”

Then there was an enormous forest. The river said, “I’ll go ahead anyway and just force these trees down.” And the river did.

The river, now powerful, stood on the edge of an enormous desert with the sun beating down. The river said, “I’m going to go through this desert.” But the hot sand soon began to soak up the whole river. The river said, “Oh, no. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get myself through this desert.” But the river soon drained into the sand until it was only a small mud pool.

Then the river heard a voice from above. “Just surrender. Let me lift you up. Let me take over.” The river said,

“Here I am.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun then lifted up the river and made the river into a huge cloud. He carried the river right over the desert and let the cloud rain down and make the fields far away fruitful and rich.

There is a moment in our life when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves. But there is the voice that comes,

“Let go. Surrender. I will make you fruitful. Yes, trust me. Give yourself to me.

What counts in your life and mine is not successes but fruits. The fruits of your life you might not see yourself. The fruits of your life are born often in your pain and in your vulnerability and in your losses. The fruits of your life come only after the plow has carved through your land. God wants you to be fruitful.

The question is not, “How much can I still do in the years that are left to me?” The question is,

“How can I prepare myself for total surrender so my life can be fruitful?”

Our little lives are small, human lives. But in the eyes of the One who calls us the beloved, we are great-greater than the years we have. We will bear fruits, fruits that you and I will not see on this earth but in which we can trust.

Solitude, community ministry-these disciplines help us live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete.

Inspirational snippets from Henri Nouwen