God is “beyond,” beyond our heart and mind, beyond our feelings and thoughts, beyond our expectations and desires, and beyond all the events and experiences that make up our life. Still God is in the center of all of it. Here we touch the heart of prayer, since here it becomes manifest that in prayer the distinction between God’s presence and God’s absence no longer really distinguishes. In prayer, God’s presence is never separated from God’s absence and God’s absence is never separated from God’s presence. God’s presence is so much beyond the human experience of being together that it quite easily is perceived as absence. God’s absence, on the other hand, is often so deeply felt that it leads to a new sense of God’s presence. . . .
“My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Psalms 22:1). . . . When Jesus spoke these words on the cross, total aloneness and full acceptance touched each other. In that moment of complete emptiness all was fulfilled. In that hour of darkness new light was seen. While death was witnessed, life was affirmed. Where God’s absence was most loudly expressed, God’s presence was most profoundly revealed. When God, through the humanity of Jesus, freely chose to share our own most painful experience of divine absence, God became most present to us. It is into this mystery that we enter when we pray.
"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." - Acts 4: 31 (NIV)
Sign Up for Our FREE Daily Meditations & Newsletter!
Help share Nouwen’s spiritual vision
When you give to the Henri Nouwen Society, you join us in offering inspiration, comfort, and hope to people around the world. Thank you for your generosity and partnership!