Henri Nouwen writes these words in A Cry for Mercy, “Every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray, only you can set my heart at rest, only you can let me dwell in your presence. No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments become the way to you.
But Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative; let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour when you will come and break through all the walls I have erected. Teach me, O Lord, to pray. Amen”
Lent is about our willingness to enter a season of relinquishment so that we may see more clearly our way to our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross, the meaning of his death and the joy of Easter morning’s resurrection. In one sense, Lent is the season in which we attempt to get out of our own way spiritually. This is a difficult challenge for any of us. It seems to me (Rich) this was Nouwen’s point when speaking about prayer. We can’t make ourselves better at prayer. We must ultimately place ourselves vulnerably before God and await his initiative and respond to his breaking through (Psalm 62:1-2). We must wait and be taught.
We are all too often caught up in our own initiatives and strategies. We become so busy we end up addicted to all our stuff. It becomes a crisis of identity to stop the frenzied pace. We feel anxious and alone. But this is the very reason for Lent. We enter a time of vulnerability before God by merely creating some space to wait and watch. In our quiet stillness, in the stillness of a hovering evening of death and the anticipated morning dawn of life our Lord comes. He comes breaking through our walls awakening within us a true knowing of who we are and how we might live in light of the magnificent beauty of both our Lord’s death and resurrection.