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This is the book that first showed me that prayer is more than talking to God whenever I want, about whatever I want. In its pages, I met the monks and mystics and poets and pilgrims who have continued to draw me into the mystery of prayer.

* * *

The Book of Common Prayer

The sheer poetry of this version of the ancient liturgies, psalms, and prayers translated into English remains, for me, the standard for corporate prayer in the Christian tradition. The language itself rises as incense; I suspect the psalmist would agree.

* * *

The Rule of Saint Benedict
Saint Benedict (Vintage)

This book taught me that prayer is not an attachment to a life lived for God—it is the center of a life lived with God. Sometimes a single preposition can make all the difference.

* * *

Thoughts in Solitude
Thomas Merton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

"Father Louie," as Merton was known, is the one who taught me what the fruits of a life of prayer, or at least one in pursuit of prayer, might turn out to be. His is the first book I downloaded to my iPhone when I was dragged across the bridge to the 21st century.

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The Book of Hours
Prayers to a Lowly God

Rainer Maria Rilke (Northwestern University Press)

Rilke is my favorite poet, and his book of prayers based on the monastic hours opened me up to the way ancient prayer, prayed by the faithful for centuries, might take root in me, that I might finally come to hear and say the "prayer of God that is rising in my heart."

* * *

Related Elsewhere:

A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, The Book of Common Prayer, The Rule of Saint Benedict, Thoughts in Solitude, and The Book of Hours are available from and ...

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In the Magazine

May 2010

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