June 1, 2016 Daniel

Seven Books To Read When Prayer Is Hard

Getting stuck in a spiritual rut is way too easy, much easier than it should be.  In the midst of work and family and all the things we have to do to just make it through, most of us have experienced that place where it is hard to read Scripture, where prayer doesn’t come easy and where we are in the search for the spiritual practices that once drew us close to God.

It might be that your morning devotional doesn’t quite speak to you the way it once did or it is too easy to convince yourself that you really don’t have the five minutes it would take to read that chapter or two of the Bible. Extended silence and prayerful reflection might be a realistic dream for someone else, you say, but it just isn’t going to happen for you. 

If you find yourself in a place like that, take heart, because you aren’t alone.  There are plenty of people who have been there and a lot of us know the grace of being pulled through to the other side.

Sometimes, that grace comes from discovering a new voice.

Reading someone else’s discovery of a new way to pray can draw you back into the life with God that you love.  I’ve often found that God can use someone else’s story of trying to live with grace and faith in a fast-paced and sometimes hard world to inspire me again and snap me back into the spiritual rhythm I desperately need.

These are a few of the books that are never far from my desk, the ones I go to when I begin to veer a little too close to the rut and the frustrations that live there.  Hopefully these might help you too.

A Testament of Devotion
Thomas Kelly

A spiritual director handed me this book when I was in my early 20’s and wrestling with how to be a Christian without the support of the campus ministry that had become my home.  It has since become my go to book when my spiritual life needs a reboot.  This little book of essays published in 1941 is incredibly relevant as it speaks to both the challenges technological advances present to living out our faith and the assurance that we can experience God in the mundane and ordinary details of our lives. 

Take This Bread
Sara Miles

Sometimes grace comes in a memoir.  Take This Bread was grace for me when I desperately needed it. In the rut of seminary and all the questions and analysis it can bring, I needed a reminder that the Gospel was still true, that God still worked and that peoples’ real and actual lives could still be changed when God showed up. If you find yourself going through the motions and needing a reminder that God still changes lives and still invites people to lives of beauty and purpose in surprising ways, this might be grace for you too.

Micha Boyett

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the gift Found was in my life.  If you know what it is like to feel stuck or are unsure of exactly where God is or what God is up to in your life, you will find a generous friend in Micha as she narrates life in the middle between what God had given her and what God was preparing her for. This beautiful book is also filled with wisdom for new mothers trying to maintain a spiritual life, so if that is the season of life you are in, you will probably find plenty of grace here, too.

The Imitation of Christ
Thomas A Kempis

A classic.  I was introduced to it while reading Paul Elie’s book on the lives of Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day, Walker Percy and Thomas Merton.  One of the common threads between these four incredible people was that all of them were influenced in one significant way or another by this book. The key to a holy and faithful life, it claims, is being connected and participating in the life of God, particularly through the grace of Holy Communion. Everyone should read this at least once in their life. 

Mudhouse Sabbath
Lauren Winner

Most of the spiritual practices that help us Christians experience the presence of God have their roots in Jewish life and faith.  Lauren Winner, who converted from Judaism to Christianity, writes a short and helpful book that introduces us to the roots of these practices and invites us to rediscover a connection with God.  If you are looking to discover or relearn spiritual practices like prayer and Sabbath to help you reconnect with God, you will be hard pressed to find a better guide.

Silence and Other Invitations of Advent
Enuma Okoro

This devotional is specifically written for Advent but is is great for anyone going through a season of life full of questions or struggles.  It is a daily guide through the story of Advent, particularly told through the lens of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  It’s a great way to get back into the daily reading of Scripture and a chance to remember that you and I aren’t the first ones to go through seasons of questions and difficulties in trying to understand what God is up to in our lives.

Return of the Prodigal Son
Henri Nouwen

It is pretty much impossible to have a list of books to help you connect or reconnect with God without wisdom from Henri Nouwen.  Honestly, you could probably pick anything he ever wrote and it would get you where you need to go.  But this beautiful and poignant story about an interaction with Rembrandt’s famous painting that led him to an experience of the Holy was my introduction to Nouwen.  And it is the one I keep coming back to when I am struggling with perfectionism and need for achievement.



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Comment (1)

  1. jdbailes@comcast.net

    Daniel,  thanks for this.  Thanks most of all for your faithfulness, witness and friendship. jim

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