25 Inspiring Henri Nouwen Quotes

25 Inspiring Henri Nouwen Quotes

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was one of the more surprising and influential Christian writers of the twentieth century. The surprise? He was a respected academic with degrees in theology and clinical psychology who taught at institutions like Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. Despite his credentials, nothing Nouwen wrote about the spiritual life sounds like a dry, academic text. His insights into following Jesus are easy to understand but have huge implications—especially for understanding how we relate to Jesus.

Here are some of Henri Nouwen’s best quotes about God, his relationship with us, and how we follow him.

Henri Nouwen Quotes about God

1. “God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful.” — Here and Now

2. “Names tell stories, most of all the name which is above all other names, the name of Jesus. In his name I am called to live. His name has become my house, my dwelling place, my refuge, my ark. His name has to start telling the story of being born, growing up, growing old, and dying—revealing a God who loved us so much that he sent his only child to us.” — The Road to Daybreak

3. “It is into this deeply tired world of ours that God sends Jesus to speak the voice of love. Jesus says, ‘Follow me. Don’t keep running around. Follow me. Don’t just sit there. Follow me.’ The voice of love is the voice that can completely reshape our life from a wandering or just-sitting-there life to one that is focused and has a point to go to.” — Following Jesus

4. “The way to ‘God alone’ is seldom traveled alone.” — The Genesee Diary

5. “Is there space in our lives where the Spirit of God has a chance of getting our attention?” — The Spirituality of Living

6. “It is God’s glory that becomes visible in a loving community.” — The Genesee Diary

Henri Nouwen Quotes about Ministry

1. “The basis of the mission of the twelve apostles was not their knowledge, training, or character, but their having lived with Jesus. Paul, who was not with Jesus while he was traveling with his disciples, encountered him on the road to Damascus. This experience was the foundation on which all his apostolic work was built. There has never been a Christian witness whose influence has not been directly related to a personal and intimate experience of the Lord.” — The Selfless Way of Christ 

2. “Ministry is not an eight-to-five job but primarily a way of life, which is for others to see and understand so that liberation can become a possibility.” — Creative Ministry

3. “For all ministers are called to recognize the sufferings of their time in their own hearts, and make to that recognition the starting point of their service. Whether we try to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying world, our service will not be perceived as authentic unless it becomes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which we speak.” — The Wounded Healer

Henri Nouwen Quotes about Identity

1. “But isn’t arrogance, in fact, the other side of rejection? Isn’t arrogance putting yourself on a pedestal to avoid being seen as you see yourself? Isn’t arrogance, in the final analysis, just another way of dealing with the feelings of worthlessness? Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the common reality of existence and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain.” — Life of the Beloved

2. “When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.” — Life of the Beloved

3. “Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests’—the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light.” — The Return of the Prodigal Son

4. “There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.” — The Inner Voice of Love

Henri Nouwen Quotes about Prayer

1. “The literal translation of the words ‘pray always’ is ‘come to rest.’ The Greek word for rest is hesychia, and hesychasm is the term which refers to the spirituality of the desert. A hesychast is a man or a woman who seeks solitude and silence as the ways to unceasing prayer. The prayer of the hesychasts is a prayer of rest. This rest, however, has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle.” — The Way of the Heart

2. “Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.” — With Open Hands

3. “In our concern to do it right, we have forgotten how to respond spontaneously to an encounter with the Divine. We remain children, depending on someone else’s approval, in that most important core of our life, the spiritual. We don’t learn how to pray, only to say approved prayers. We sit at the dark edges of a richly laden banquet hall, hoping for a few crumbs that might fall our way.” — Behold the Beauty of the Lord

4. “Maybe it is exactly the experience of loneliness that allows us to describe the first tentative lines of solitude. Maybe it is precisely the shocking confrontation with our hostile self that gives us words to speak about hospitality as a real option, and maybe we will never find the courage to speak about prayer as a human vocation without the disturbing discovery of our own illusions.” — Reaching Out

Henri Nouwen Quotes about Living the Spiritual Life

1. “A spiritual life cannot be formed without discipline, practice, and accountability.” — Spiritual Direction

2. “We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new.” — Here and Now

3. “Jesus tells us to set our hearts on the kingdom. Setting our hearts on something involves not only serious aspirations but also strong determination. A spiritual life requires human effort. The forces that keep pulling us back into a worry-filled life are far from easy to overcome.” — Making All Things New

4. “Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.” — Bread for the Journey

5. “The spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our everyday existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now.” — Making All Things New

6. “A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living. It belongs to the essence of being human that we contemplate our life, think about it, discuss it, evaluate it, and form opinions about it. Half of life is reflecting on what is being lived. Is it worth it? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it old? Is it new? What is it all about? … Reflection is essential for growth, development, and change. It is the unique power of the human person.” — Can You Drink the Cup?

7. “Are we preparing ourselves for our death, or are we ignoring death by keeping busy? … The main question is not, How much will we still be able to do during the few years we have left to live? but rather, How can we prepare ourselves for our death in such a way that our dying will be a new way for us to send our and God’s spirit to those whom we have loved and who have loved us?” — Our Greatest Gift

8. “By greeting life’s pains with something other than denial, we may find something unexpected. By inviting God into our difficulties, we ground life—even its sad moments—in joy and hope. When we stop grasping our lives, we can finally be given more than we could ever grab for ourselves. And we learn the way to a deeper love for others.” — Turn My Mourning into Dancing

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Dnllnd

Connor SalterG. Connor Salter is a writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. In 2020, he won First Prize for Best Feature Story in a regional contest by the Colorado Press Association Network. He has contributed over 1,200 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.

This article is part of our larger Inspiring Quotes resource meant to encourage and strengthen your faith. Visit our most popular quotes by well known Christians and theologians to find more inspiration. Remember, the Holy Spirit can work through us when we have faith and share it with others! Please pass along any quotes that touch your heart because you never know light you’ll shine on someone else’s dark day!

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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