Henri Nouwen wrote this meditation on prayer in response to "The Work of Prayer" (Sojourners, March 1979), which called Christians during the Cold War to respond to the idolatry of nuclear weapons with a daily prayer vigil during Holy Week, and a national gathering on Memorial Day in Washington, DC -- Ed.
The Sojourners have called us to prayer. What does this mean? Ever since I first read the call to prayer in the March issue of this magazine, I have wondered about its significance and its implications. Are they seeking flight in a prayer-rally because they have come to realize the futility of their actions against the arms race? Are they turning to God because turning to people did not get them very far? Are they capitulating to the pietism of those they tried previously to call to action? Are they making a dramatic gesture after getting themselves caught in the fears they were trying to overcome?
I do not think so. On the contrary, I believe that the Sojourners are discovering a dimension of prayer they did not see before, a dimension that is becoming visible to them precisely in their confrontation with the powers and principalities. I see their call not as an invitation to retreat into a familiar piety, but as a challenge to make a radical move toward prayer as “the only necessary thing” (Luke 10:42).
What I see happening is the discovery of prayer as the act: the most radical and most revolutionary act, the act by which everything is turned around and made new, the act by which the barriers of fear are broken down, the act by which we can enter into a world which is not of this world, the act, therefore, that is the basis for all other actions. I think that the Sojourners are sensing this intuitively without yet knowing fully on what they are embarking.