"Deep silence leads us to realize that prayer is, above all, acceptance. When we pray, we are standing with our hands open to the world. We know that God will become known to us in the nature around us, in people we meet, and into situations we run into. We trust that the world holds God's secret within and we expect that secret to be shown to us. Prayer creates that openness in which God is given to us. Indeed, God wants to be admitted into the human heart, received with open hands, and loved with the same love with which we have been created."

This beautiful reminder is from a classic devotional guide originally published in 1972. Henri J. M. Nouwen makes it clear that prayer sensitizes us to discern the presence of God within us and all around us. It is also ecological, establishing divine connections with all aspects of life. Nouwen explores the links between prayer and silence, acceptance, hope, compassion, and prophetic criticism.

The spiritual practice of openness shows itself in prayer as we let go of our expectations and timetables and relax into the grace and bounty of God. Nouwen describes part of the mood of prayer: "Perhaps, in the long run, there is no finer image for the prayer of hope than the trusting relation of little children toward their mother. All day long they ask for things, but the love they have for their mother does not depend on her fulfilling all these wishes. In spite of occasional fits and a few short-lived tantrums if they don't get their way, little children continue to be convinced that, in the end, their mother does only what she knows is best for them."

Nouwen also shares some prayers. Here is one we like:

"Dear God,
I am full of wishes,
full of desires,
full of expectations.
Some of them may be realized, many may not,
but in the midst of all my satisfactions
and disappointments,
I hope in you.
I know that you will never leave me alone
and will fulfill your divine promises.
Even when it seems that things are not going my way,
I know that they are going your way
and that, in the end, your way is the
best way for me.
O Lord, strengthen my hope,
especially when my many wishes are not fulfilled.
Let me never forget that your name is Love.