“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name, I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips, my mouth will praise you. On my bed, I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:1-8).

Henri Nouwen writes about opening our hands to God without fear and about experiencing release from festering conflicts. Through prayer, we can experience freedom and even festive spontaneity. He confides, “You begin to suspect that to pray is to live.” What a bracing reality: “To pray is to live.” The inverse is equally true: “To live is to pray.” Nouwen says that prayer is acceptance. “When we pray, we are standing with our hands open to the world. We know that God will show Himself in the nature that surrounds us, in the people we meet, in the situations we run into.”

Prayer is adventure. Prayer is listening for “sealed orders” from God. Prayer is waiting for His secrets to be revealed. Prayer is as necessary for nourishing our souls and spirits as food and water are for our bodies. To live in prayer is to become alert. We ask, what is happening now that shows God’s engagement with me? What is the Holy Spirit whispering? In whom do I see signals of God’s grace? If I were to fully so what the Spirit wants right now, what would it be? We find an energizing freedom when our prayerful thinking becomes a spiritual treasure hunt.

At the same time, prayer is costly. Henri Nouwen tells us that prayer requires our confession, that we are limited and weak. He advises, “Whenever you pray, you profess that you are not god and that you wouldn’t want to be, that you haven’t reached your goal yet, and that you never will in this life, that you must constantly stretch out your hands and wait again for the gift which gives new life.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement