My Top 5 Books on Prayer
A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants
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 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
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
"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.
The Book of Hours
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."
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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 ChristianBook.com and other book retailers.
Previous Christianity Today articles on prayer & spirituality include:
What Do Prayer Studies Prove? | When a landmark study suggests that intercessory prayer may actually hurt patients instead of help them, you have to wonder. (May 15, 2009)
Morning Prayers | Quotations to stir heart and mind. (February 1, 2006)
Learning the Ancient Rhythms of Prayer | Why charismatics and evangelicals, among others, are flocking to communities famous for set prayers and worshiping by the clock. (January 8, 2001)
Previous Top 5 lists have featured doubt, community, sports, parenting, Advent, life ethics, emerging movement, Islam, loss, Calvin, spiritual memoirs, neglected doctrines, spiritual memoirs, marriage, Lent, fiction books for the soul, managing your money, devotionals, how character shapes belief, food, atheism, China, presidents, world Christianity, ancient-future faith, the civil rights era, social justice, church history, popular culture, the Civil War, apologetics, atheism, and sex.