Item 1617 - Unceasing prayer

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00389 1-9-1-1617

Title

Unceasing prayer

Date(s)

  • July 29 - August 5, 1978 (Creation)

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Item

Extent and medium

6 p. of textual records.

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(1932-1996)

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This item is a 6 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled ‘Unceasing Prayer’, published in the journal, America, July29/Aug 5, 1978, pp. 46 -51. Nouwen begins by suggesting that we tend to think of prayer as one of many things we do. He then points to St Paul’s exhortation that we ‘pray unceasingly’. Nouwen then identifies what he sees as the goal of this article: ‘I propose to look at unceasing prayer as the conversion of our unceasing thought processes. My central question therefore is: “How can we turn our perpetual mental activities into perpetual prayer?” Or, to put it more simply: How can thinking become praying?’ Nouwen moves on to discuss in the first section his understanding of human thought processes and states ‘I have been wondering if we ever do not think?’ He speaks of reflective, non-reflective and dream thinking. Nouwen points to the great value of thinking to human beings and then moves in the next section to say, ‘This unceasing thinking, which lies at the core of our humanity, needs to be converted slowly but persistently into unceasing prayer’. Nouwen’s first suggestion is that unceasing prayer cannot be a constant thinking about God. ‘To pray, I think, does not primarily mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God’. Nouwen follows this by suggesting that prayer cannot be introspection but it must look outward, a conversation with God, where nothing is hidden. In Nouwen’s final section he suggests that to live this life of prayer requires the development of a certain discipline. He then describes in some detail one type of discipline that can be helpful. Nouwen concludes the article by stating, Paul’s words …about unceasing prayer might at first have seemed demanding and unrealistic. Perhaps, we can now see that they can be the source of an ever increasing joy’.

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Note

Published in America 139, no. 3 (July 29-August 5, 1978): 46-51. The article has been removed from the journal.
This article appears in a revised form in: Nouwen, Henri, Clowning in Rome, Doubleday, N.Y., 1979.

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Accession Number

2000 01

Location

Box 295

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