Since starting Convergence – we have championed the voices in our vast Christian heritage of contemplative prayer. Why? Because I believe that the emphasis of LISTENING – SENSING – FEELING – REFLECTING are all vital to the shaping of our lives. We can do projects, we can learn facts, we can perform rituals, we can tell stories, and we can even be together – but without the values of that which makes up the Contemplative Tradition – I really doubt that our lives are deeply shaped by our faith. Yes, it is the Spirit of God that shapes us – but I believe the awareness of God is enhanced by the quieting of the contemplative life.
If you are interested in some contemplative voices that have resonated most over the years–please consider checking out the book list below.
COMMUNITY WRITING & PRACTICE RESOURCES
Over the years, we’ve crafted community experiences, retreats, focuses during our observation of the Christian Calendar. We have also compiled many resources and practices for our community. Check out these PDF resources, here.
A kind of introduction into the Contemplative Tradition can be found in the following books. Laird writes with familiar church language and includes many references to Scripture as he describes the importance of silence within our life of faith. One of my earliest encounters with contemplative practices was through Tony Jones book, The Sacred Way. Each chapter focuses on an ancient prayer practices–and it includes Jones’ own experience with the practice, the history of the practice, and a description of the practice. Everything Richard Rohr writes is valuable—I’m a big fan! The Naked Now is probably my favorite book—while less focused on practices (although there is a great appendix of prayers) he does a wonderful job speaking to the importance of being present—a value of the contemplative way.
Pick up any of these books — and you’ll not only know more about contemplative prayer, but you’ll be compelled to enter into these prayers.
INTO THE SILENT LAND by Martina Laird (kindle)
THE SACRED WAY by Tony Jones (kindle)
THE NAKED NOW by Richard Rohr (paperback)
The next few books are very focused on practices. They are written as a reference guide for different ways of praying. You will have your understanding of prayer expanded for sure. Our community has benefited from many of the prayers explained in these two books. Edwards language is a little more accessible to a Western Christian mind – but they are each valuable.
SADHANA: A WAY TO GOD by Anthony De Mello (kindle)
LIVING IN THE PRESENCE by Tilden Edwards (paperback)
SCRIPTURE AS PRAYER PRACTICE
When valuing LISTENING and AWARENESS it seems to shape your approach to the Bible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using Scripture has storehouse of facts and doctrines we must be RIGHT about — over letting the Scripture be a gateway to encounter God. These books on Scripture are infinitely challenging—if you’ve spent much time in an evangelical world. Blue writes with freshness that her experience of Scripture is one that inspires my own reading of the Bible. Martoia is a very thoughtful voice today–that can easily break down heady concepts to make them quite accessible. Again, with his influence and writing – I can no longer read Scripture with the same eyes. Jones expounds on one practice from The Sacred Way, Divine Intervention. He writes entirely about Lectio Divina (a prayerful reading of Scripture—literally, “divine reading”). We have used Lectio Divina often within Convergence—so I highly recommend becoming more familiar with the practice. M. Basil Pennington and Christine Vaulters Paintner have written great books on the practice as well.
FROM STONE TO LIVING WORD by Debbie Blue (kindle)
DIVINE INTERVENTION: Encountering God through the Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina by Tony Jones (kindle)
THE BIBLE AS IMPROV by Ron Martoia
LIMINALITY (transitional times of darkness and crisis)
I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to thinking, discussing, and processing what it means to be in a season of struggle, doubt, and questions. But, the more I speak about this–the more I’m assured that it’s a common experience to go through moments where we have no idea what we are doing, believing, or if we can make it much longer. I believe a faith community must be a place where we aren’t so concerned with answers–but living with and among the questions–the unresolved moments–the unfolding, not the conclusion. The following books continued to expand my value of these liminal spaces that we encounter. Winner’s openness is a treasure–but painful to “walk with” as you read her memoir style book. And May’s book shaped our LENTEN SEASON over a year ago—helping us, as a community, give voice to the story of our dark nights.
STILL: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner (kindle)
THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL by Gerald May (paperback)
Bourgeault illuminates the value of the contemplative way. It was her writing that has helped fuel our community’s emphasis on silence. While I’d say she probably shouldn’t be your introductory read for a contemplative understanding—she will certainly take you further down the road.
THE WISDOM WAY OF KNOWING by Cynthia Bourgeault (kindle)
CENTERING PRAYER AND INNER AWAKENING by Cynthia Bourgeault (kindle)
I have a hard time editing my writing—and, I have a hard time editing my book recommendations as well. I know I’ll wish I included other books—but these are some top reads—in my experience.
WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THE LIST?
Please consider sharing your favorite CONTEMPLATIVE authors and books in the comments.