Nouwen asks the question we all have asked at one time or another, “What do you do once you have set aside a time and a place to be alone with God?” (p. 25).
His answer is four words: “Just be with Jesus.”
Coming from a Roman Catholic priest, steeped in the liturgical tradition, and responsible for saying Mass each day, this seems an unusual answer. But it is the correct one—both for himself and his formation, and also for any Christian’s.
Every “form” of prayer (whether liturgical or charismatic) is only the doorway into the presence of God. To equate or define prayer according to the form is to miss the essence. No matter when you pray, where you pray, or how you pray—praying is “just being with Jesus.”
That’s one reason why the mystics believed that wordless prayer was the highest form of prayer. It was a form that had no form. It was a form stripped of all intermediate structures and actions: just being with Jesus.
Nouwen combines theology and psychology in a beautiful writing, “Let him look at you, touch you, and speak to you; and look, touch, and speak to him in your own way, in any way your heart desires” (p. 26).
I don’t think you can find a better definition of prayer than that. Let God love you! And then, love God in return. Prayer is a “love exchange.”
And Nouwen goes on to rightly note that when our heart and God’s Heart are united, we will be given a heart for others, for we cannot claim to have God’s Heart without receiving what is in God’s heart.
So….just be with Jesus. Like everything else, prayer is a gift of grace.