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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.
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Check out my review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.
Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright. It is based upon his book Simply Good News. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. It works well for group studies.
How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.
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