A Prayer for Lent by Henri Nouwen


In the early days of my ministry, in the mid 1970’s, I went through a big Henri Nouwen stage, where I read everything that came from his pen. Nouwen (1932–96) was a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, writer, lecturer, and spiritual director. He taught for a time at Yale Divinity School, and introduced many Protestant clergy to previously unfamiliar spiritual disciplines from his tradition. Later in his life he was a leader at the L’Arche Daybreak Community for people with mental and physical disabilities.

I was given his book The Wounded Healer as an ordination gift by my pastor and mentor Dudne Breeze.  That book is still worth revisiting.

Here is something else by him which speaks to me this season, a good prayer for these early days of Lent:

How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.   (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

(Photo:  “Parker Brook in Winter,” Pittsfield State Forest, by R.L. Floyd)