Have Mercy on Us

Henri Nouwen in his L’Arche journal ‘The Road to Daybreak’ gives a really helpful example of this by quoting a summarized version of ‘The Three Hermits’ story written by Leo Tolstoy in the 19th century, that for me gets to the very heart of prayer.

“Three Russian monks lived on a faraway island. Nobody ever went there, but one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit. When he arrived, he discovered that the monks didn’t even depressedknow the Lord’s Prayer. So he spent all his time and energy teaching them the “Our Father” and then left, satisfied with his pastoral work. But when his ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water – in fact, they were running after the ship! When they reached it, they cried, “Dear Father, we have forgotten the prayer you taught us.” The bishop overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing, said, “But, dear brothers, how then do you pray?” They answered, “Well, we just say, ‘Dear God, there are three of us and there are three of you, have mercy on us!’” The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity, said, “Go back to your land and be at peace.”

We are caught so much in the “how to” of life that we never get to the real thing. Prayer and faith are things we just do.


Filed under Henri Nouwen, Prayer

4 responses to “Have Mercy on Us

  1. Paul H. Lemmen

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man and commented:
    Excellent. Father Nouwen was an evolved writer, capable of putting so much nuance into his writings that much of the body of his work can be relevant in many varied situations. May our gracious Lord cause eternal light to shine upon his soul. I ask this in the name of Our Lord Jesus who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and unto the ages of ages.

  2. Tolstoy was an interesting man.

  3. sf

    I had never read any of Leo Tolstoy’s books. What a very interesting story. Thanks for sharing it. That’s the great thing about prayer. No matter how short our how loudly (or lowly) we speak or think it, God hears each one. Amen!

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