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I am excited to share my review of Living In God: Contemplative Prayer and Contemplative Action by Nicholas Amato. Father Nicholas has personally practiced contemplative prayer for 45 years and has led retreat and parish missions with this focus for many years. You can visit him at Words Worth Noting.
I had an opportunity to interview Nicholas. You can find this interview here.
When I had passed page thirty of Living In God I heard an inner voice speak to me, “Rich, slow down. Start over.’” So I did. I began again. I read much slower with a pen and highlighter in hand. Let me share what “shimmered” from its pages.
Living In God is nicely divided into five sections: an introduction to contemplative prayer, contemplative prayer (a deeper dive into thinking versus awareness), contemplative action, tracking and discernment, and concludes with a spirituality for daily living.
It is important to note that this book is not a theoretical work but a workbook filled with valuable exercises. We must choose those that fit for us. “In short, find your practice and practice it.”
Appetite For The Divine
Nicholas reveals that there is within each one of us an appetite for the Divine. “I like to think that God-before sending us out into the world through the birth canal-implants within us a longing for his presence. This is done to assure that we will more easily find our way back to him, which, of course, is the destiny of each of us.”
I have practiced centering prayer since June of 2014. During centering prayer I open to the presence and actions of God within. I sit with God because I love God. God loves me and is delighted each time I silently sit with Him. Centering prayer teaches me how to deepen my love for God, others and even myself.
Nicholas’ book is rich and full of information for both beginners and those who are current practitioners of contemplative practices. Within its pages you will learn about lectio divina, centering prayer, walking meditation, chanting, or even reading poetry to name a few. All of these are practices that will open us to the Divine.
Nicholas challenges us to move from verbal and meditative prayer to contemplative prayer. “Most people who are believers in God practice some form of verbal/vocal prayer. Far fewer practice meditation, and relatively few have encountered contemplative prayer.” Nicholas mentions that, “Jesus himself practiced all three.”
In fact, Nicholas reveals, “It is out of this deep communion that Jesus draws the strength and determination to do the will of his Father.” I agree! Contemplative prayer best prepares me to also do the will of God. Nicholas’ book will reveal how contemplative prayer practices can and will spawn actions that are the will of God for you too.
Two key takeaways for me jumped off the pages as I read this wonderful book.
The word portal “shimmered” at me. “Contemplation would have us simply notice an object and gaze at it to let is speak to us. At such times, the simplest of objects, something in nature, a potted plant, a steaming cup of coffee, or the flame of a burning candle can be a portal taking us from ego-centered consideration to dreams, fantasies, and beyond to a resting in God. “
During centering prayer I use a sacred icon as my portal to the divine. During my non- centering times, I am surrounded by portals. I have begun to take notice of them a little bit more after reading this book. They are my delicious cup of French pressed coffee, the peaceful flames of my family room fireplace or in the beautiful array of fall leaf colors on the trees as I take a stroll through my neighborhood.
Nicholas asks a very important question. “The question arises as to what sort of impact might the effect of repeatedly spending time in contemplative presence have on the one who prays.” He goes on to say, “However, what I have noticed is that moving from the presence to action that makes a difference, and then tracking those actions as a way of discerning how God is influencing my life, has not been widely covered in the limited reading I have done on the subject. It is to fill this void that this book is written.”
We are provided within his book journaling tools that can help us with this process. I found this information of much interest and was an area that I lack in my practice. I plan to incorporate his ideas and tools into my centering prayer practice. I am certain as I begin to track, I will be better able discern what God speaks to me. When I am better able to discern what it is God speaks to me, I can deepen my daily intentions to do the will of God.
Lastly I think it is important to keep his recommendations in mind. “Daily prayer routines, monthly check-ins, and a spiritual community are the bread and butter of a healthy and vibrant prayer life. A longer-range resource would be an annual retreat, either silent or directed.”
I have begun a second run through Living in God. I want to mine this book’s depths for riches that I am certain I missed the first time through.
As I read this book again, practice centering prayer and live my life each day, I will keep these words in mind. “God is always present in love and compassion. Our “work” is to dispose ourselves to maintain awareness. “
I encourage you to read Living in God. You will learn more about contemplative prayer, discover new practices, and be better prepared to track your contemplative actions that are the fruit of your prayer.
Enjoy my interview with Nicholas.
Nicholas’ second book is out. Moving from Stress to Joy .
Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating
Open Mind, Open Heart 20th Anniversary Edition by Thomas Keating
Manifesting God by Thomas Keating
Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz
A Journey of Discernment with the teachings of Mary Margaret Funk and other contemplative voices by Contemplative Outreach, Mary Margaret Funk: This e-course explores the contemplative approach to discerning the small and large decisions in life, which comes from cultivating a life practice of unceasing prayer (whatever types of prayer that may encompass for you). Discernment means sorting our thoughts and following the impulse of grace given by the Holy Spirit. As Sr. Meg writes, “Since we are not our thoughts, we can observe them rising and follow the ones that are from God.” This is a way of coming more awake and discovering the spark of divinity burning in our hearts.
Poetry and Prayer from the Celtic Tradition by Carl McColman: The traditional Celtic people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales wove prayers, blessings, poems, and songs into every aspect of their daily lives — using the power of language to blend a rich spirituality of presence and wisdom into the very fabric of their being. Many of these poetic invocations and charming poems were collected by folklorist Alexander Carmichael over 100 years ago and preserved in the book Carmina Gadelica — the “Charms of the Gaels.”
Celtic Spirituality At the Edge of Mystery by Carl McColman: Consider it a pilgrimage into one of the best examples of everyday spirituality. Celtic wisdom and poetry encourages us to recognize the holy all around us, honors and protects the sacred earth, gives inspiration to free our creative voice, and presents a holistic path that links the quest for holiness with an embodied sense of Divine love.
Transforming the World through Contemplative Prayer: Richard Rohr, OFM, and Laurence Freeman, OSB—two long-time spiritual friends—offer practical guidance for the challenges of this time in Earth’s history. They teach us how we can put our deepest aspirations for personal realization and social transformation into practice. Their combined focus on contemplation, action, and a shared passion for truth illuminates the origins of our crisis and shows us the path toward lasting change and a more just and loving humanity. Discover the power of contemplative prayer to change the world.
Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate – Three leading voices in the contemplative Christian tradition explore the mystic’s path: Richard Rohr, James Finley and Cynthia Bourgeault. Experience a very special weekend conference with teachings that guide us through the long mystical tradition from early Christianity to our own time. This view into our mystical heritage opens our hearts to the Divine Mystery in which we live and are surrounded. The mystical union to which we are all invited strengthens us to live our lives with compassion and gratitude.
On Encountering the Wisdom Jesus, this brilliant author and dynamic Episcopalian priest presents her first full-length audio course about rediscovering the Master of Wisdom. Twelve immersive sessions cover: the parables as wisdom tools; Jesus’s teachings about kenosis (or self-emptying: a path as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago); Jesus as tantric master; Centering Prayer, an approach to meditation as Jesus lived it, and much more. The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today?
Centering Prayer Course: A Training Course for Opening to the Presence of God – Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)
Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere: The Essential Guide to the Contemplative Teachings of Thomas Merton – Now James Finley, who for six years lived, prayed, and studied with Brother Louis, as Merton was known at the Abbey of Gethsemani, shares with us the gifts passed on to him by this towering figure.