"Pray It Up" is a series on prayer that starts on the weekend of August 7 & 9. In preparation for this series many on our programming team are reading up on prayer to not only prepare ourselves to be saturated as best we can on the practice of prayer, but also in an attempt to provide helpful resources for our congregation.
I have just finished reading Spiritual Practices by Henri Nouwen. I have read several of his many works throughout the years including, Out of Solitude, Wounded Healer, Return of the Prodigal Son, The Way of the Heart, Life of the Beloved to name a few and yet in this most recent reading I have found some of Nouwen's most practical insight in the area of spiritual disciplines specifically in the areas of prayer and reading our Bibles. Check out chapters 5 & 7 respectively on those two practices.
I am sure our teaching pastor Ed Noble will have his own suggestions as to books to read during the series, but for me Spiritual Practices would be my suggestion.
First I love the way Nouwen describes spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation:
"Spiritual disciplines are the skills and techniques by which we begin to see the image of God in our heart. Spiritual formation is the careful attentiveness to the work of God, our master sculptor, as we submit to gradual chipping away ofa ll that is not of God until the inner lion is revealed." p. 17
This understanding undergirds how he encourages us to approach the various spiritual disciplines laid out in the book. In additon the way the book is laid out has multiple applications. We are encouraged to read it through once -- straight through. Then a second time around taking a chapter at a time approach and utitlizing the personal application helps at the end of each chapter that can be done individually, in a small group setting or in conjunction with a spiritual director.
Here are some further thoughts from Henri that I hope will prod you to read this book:
"To pray unceasingly does not mean to think about God inn contrast to thinking about other things, or to talk to God instead of talking to other people. Rather, it means to think, speak, and live in the presence of God." p.61
"The presence of God is so much beyond the human experience of being near to another that it quite easily is misperceived as absence. The absence of God, on the other hand, is often so deeply felt that it leads to a new sense of God's presence." p. 79
"As long as we red the Bible or a spiritual book simply to acquire knowlege, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people." p. 92