5 Books On The Contemplative Way
At Steadfast Ministries, a contemplative way undergirds all of my work.
Contemplation is learning how to pay attention, notice, and wake up to God's presence in all things. We develop this muscle in our prayer times or a Spiritual Direction session. But after time, this way seeps into the rest of our lives, making us calmer, more compassionate people.
Loads of beautiful resources exist about contemplation. Here are my top five favorites.
1. Armchair Mystic: How Contemplative Prayer Can Lead You Close To God
Mark Thibodeaux paints broad brushstrokes about prayer. His four categories for different types of prayer orient us to where we are in our prayer journey. He also hits the fine details of practices that take us beneath the surface into contemplation.
2. Being with God: The Absurdity, Necessity, and Neurology of Contemplative Prayer
What makes AJ Sherrill's book stand out is his explanation of the absurdity of contemplative prayer in a culture that idolizes efficiency and his description of the God-given benefits of this form of prayer. I loved this book. My only quibble is how Sherrill narrowly defines stillness prayer as contemplation. I would include listening prayer (see Armchair Mystic for these categories).
3. The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit
It's only a matter of time in my work before someone asks, "But how do I know it's the voice of Jesus I'm hearing?" That's a great question and one that Gordon Smith handles with skill. If you want to grow in discerning the voice of Jesus in your life, pick up this book.
4. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation
Martin Laird writes a book that leans into the mystical nature of contemplation. I truly delighted in the beauty of this work's writing, historical richness, and thought-provoking content.
5. Mansions of the Heart: Exploring the Seven Stages of Spiritual Growth
While not specifically about contemplation, Thomas Ashbrook's work — that repurposes St. Theresa's Interior Castle in modern language — is a compass, helping us locate ourselves in our spiritual journey. This book aids you in grasping why you feel the way you do about contemplation since contemplative prayer plays different roles in different seasons of our lives.
That's my current favorite list. Let me know what you think and if you'd add any.
Also, if you're at a place where you want help embracing a more contemplative way, let me know how I can help.
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