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"When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer"
Author: Jan Johnson
Publisher: NavPress Url: NavPress.com
While ordering a couple of other books by this author I found myself drawn to the title of this book, “When the Soul Listens”. As I read the book description, I discovered that it was about Contemplative Prayer, a subject that I’ve always been curious about but avoided, for reasons not totally known to me. I suppose it had something to do with the image that would come to mind when I thought of the subject—you know, those of long-haired, bearded gurus sitting atop a mountain in complete silence. I approached this book with a bit of apprehension and skepticism, but it was almost as if the author was aware of this and immediately addressed this, along with other misconceptions and concerns that I had. This book is much more than a book about learning to sit in silence.
In Jan’s own words, “The purpose of this writing is to help you learn how to meet with God in life-transforming encounters in which your heart comes to rest in His presence.” Doesn’t that sound inviting?
This book is divided into four main sections:
Section One: “Beyond Asking” highlights some of the pitfalls we can run into when we are praying in a traditional manner, such as telling God how or what to do about something; becoming self-absorbed; becoming discouraged when our prayers are not answered; expecting God to change others but not necessarily ourselves, etc. She shows how Contemplative Prayer is rooted in Scripture and how critical it is for us to not only know the Scriptures but to know and understand the character of God. Without these two elements we cannot discern the voice of God from the voice of the enemy or the voices in our head. She talks about how Contemplative Prayer is an important aspect of Spiritual Formation and transforming our character.
The author takes away the mysteriousness of this subject by outlining the basic structure/steps of this method of prayer in the following sequence:
In Section Two: “How Contemplation Works” Jan notes that a typical prayer conference might focus on techniques and increasing effectiveness—with the bottom line of getting prayers answered, while in contemplative prayer, the focus shifts to Loving God and Letting God set the agenda.
SectionThree: “Wisdom in Contemplation” deals with themes of hearing God with clarity, silencing our "inner committee”(ie. the critic, the judge, or parent in our head), and being part of community vs. being a loner.
Section Four: “What You’re Likely to Hear God Say in Contemplation” gives a snapshot of the kind of messages that we are likely to hear (ie. Basic truths about His love; Confrontation; Calling; Challenges, etc.).
I was reminded of how fresh and alive the Scriptures can be when we imagine ourselves living and interacting with the characters in the Biblical stories that we read, and when we quiet ourselves enough to allow God to speak to us through them.
I appreciate the way that this book corrected some of my misconceptions about Contemplative Prayer and has given me some new tools for connecting with God. I was surprised to learn that I had already been practicing this form of prayer in some aspects.
This book is for anyone who wants to learn the basics of Contemplative Prayer and those who are looking for a fresh way to connect with God.
How about you…
Do you find it hard to sit still long enough to hear from God?
What comes to mind for you when you think of Contemplative Prayer?
What are your concerns, questions, or experiences with this form of prayer?
Jenni - thanks for another strong review for the Pray! Community.
Many Christians struggle with contemplative prayer, theologically and/or practically - your review gives them a good perspective on how thi sbook can help them think and work through thouse issues,
Pray! Community Manager
Thanks for sharing this review. Sounds like a good book. I have read some of the others by Jan Johnson and found them helpful and will put this one on my reading list and share your review with my prayer team.
Thanks, Jenni, for this review. I am glad to know this book is available. So often when I pray I feel like I am just going down a long list of things for which I have been asked to pray. Although I know God loves to hear from me, it feels a bit one-sided. I think I need to know more about comtemplative prayer for a more balanced approach.
I think I already apply some of this approach while I am doing Scripture reading but I had never thought of it as being "contemplative." I would like to know how to reconcile the practical list with this more open-ended form of prayer. As it is for me now, I think this involves two distinct prayer times. How does one weave the two together?