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Contemplative Prayer (Image Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Merton , Thich Nhat Hanh
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Book Description

In this classic text, Thomas Merton offers valuable guidance for prayer. He brings together a wealth of meditative and mystical influences–from John of the Cross to Eastern desert monasticism–to create a spiritual path for today. Most important, he shows how the peace contacted through meditation should not be sought in order to evade the problems of contemporary life, but can instead be directed back out into the world to affect positive change.

Contemplative Prayer is one of the most well-known works of spirituality of the last one hundred years, and it is a must-read for all seeking to live a life of purpose in today’s world.

In a moving and profound introduction, Thich Nhat Hanh offers his personal recollections of Merton and compares the contemplative traditions of East and West.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

This little gem of a book, newly issued with a foreword from the great Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (who knew Merton in the 1960s) beautifully distills Merton's own reading and long experience with contemplation. Written close to the end of Merton's life, this book is not so much a "how to" guide as it is a kind of contemplation of contemplation. Immersed in the "negative theology" of St. John of the Cross and others--and influenced by his deep reading in Zen--Merton here stresses that in meditation "we should not look for a 'method' or 'system,' but cultivate an 'attitude,' an 'outlook': faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, supplication, trust, joy." God is found in the desert of surrender: this means giving up any expectation for a particular message and "waiting on the Word of God in silence," knowing that any answer will be "his silence itself suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God." --Doug Thorpe


“[Readers] will find Contemplative Prayer valuable. Merton shows that all living theology needs to be rooted in exercises where men somehow happily establish contact with God.” --New York Times Book Review

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking about contemplation November 9, 2002
This is not a how-to book. It is a study of the history and meaning and reason for contemplative prayer, deeply thought of, deeply experienced. My little old copy is dogeared and heavily underlined, having been read so many times. And it is not my first copy - I've given others to friends.
As with much of Merton's writing, it is a tool for examining our own prayer, our own lives. He shows us many ways we may be evading the very goal of our prayer, how we may be shielding ourselves from God's light shining upon us.
Merton did not write this book in order to become popular. It is not all sweetness and gentle breezes of the Spirit. It is more like a cold wind that seeks to blow away our defenses and leave us face to face with what our souls really want - God. Whether we enjoy the process is not the point, but a book like this lets us know that we are not alone on the path, that, tough as it is, others have gone before. It gives comfort in the old English meaning of the word: strengthening. Read this if you need a good dose of spiritual tonic.
review by Janet Knori, author of Awakening in God
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide to contemplative prayer January 15, 2006
Thomas Merton was a monk, and in this book he explains ways that the non-monastic can live a life of prayer. In doing so he provides exercises for the contemplative novice (like me) and warns against bad habits of prayer that are easy to fall into. Here is his explanation of the purpose of monastic prayer: "To prepare the way so that God's action may develop this 'faculty for the supernatural,' this capacity for inner illumination gy faith and by the light of wisdom, in the loving contemplation of God" (p. 45). He writes well and clearly; one need not be a monk or an academic to understand what he is teaching.

This was the first book of Merton's I ever read. I read it during a grief-filled time in my life when I felt the need of something to anchor me, to help me to pray more meaningfully, to concentrate on listening to God more than on my own verbalizing. At one point he says that he is easily distracted by many things; I realized that I had just heard my true name--Easily Distracted By Many Things--for the first time. He promised to teach "a way of keeping oneself in the presence of God and of reality, rooted in one's own inner truth" (p. 23), and he did.

The book's introduction is by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist; it includes a helpful series of prayers as well.

Merton helped me to heal, and to grow from the healing, and to re-engage an often hurting world. He opened up what was to me a new practice in Christian spirituality. I recommend you read him.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeper understanding October 1, 2005
This book, 'Contemplative Prayer', was Thomas Merton's last book. A prolific writing on spiritual topics, Merton was perhaps in an ideal setting to be able to write about the ideas and methods of contemplative prayer, being a Trappist. Trappists devote themselves to prayer, adding the disciplines of silence and solitude, things that are needed for the contemplative side of things to emerge.

In the introduction by Merton's friend, Thich Nhat Hanh, there is a nine-fold prayer that relates to many of Merton's ideas about contemplative prayer. However, it is a mistake (and both Hanh in the introduction and Merton in the text mention this) to think that prayer is something in and of itself - Christians and Buddhists tend to have the understanding that prayer without practice lacks efficacy.

Merton traces a strong history of contemplative prayer, from the earliest Christians (particularly the Desert Fathers and early monastics) to the latest theologians (Hahn relates Merton's ideas to Paul Tillich, and without mentioning him by name, Merton also seems to strive for that same purity that was the pursuit of Kierkegaard). Merton concentrates especially on various 'via negativa' methods and theologies - St. John of the Cross is but the most powerful example, but Merton draws on Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Catherine of Siena, Meister Eckhart and others.

This is not a how-to manual for contemplative prayer. This was a subject that was beginning to interesting Merton more and more near the time of his death, and we can but wonder if he would have gone on to produce more practical writing on the topic after this piece.
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating on Many Levels May 31, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is profound: in a mere 116 pages Merton reveals indispensable spiritual insights one after another. Contemplation is the practice of seeking clarity--a clear vision of who we are, a clear vision of our relationship to God. So, with honest, relentless precision, Merton exposes our false postures of ego, pride, attachement, fear--those unholy but seductive impulses that cloud our souls and separate us from God. It is obvious that "Contemplative Prayer" is the product of an experienced contemplative, one who has experienced and reflected upon a lifetime of struggle, enough so that he can boil down the essence of spiritual survival into a handful of simple words. But he does much more than that: after shattering each underpinning of our personal complacency, he draws back and puts his observations in their monastic and theological context, giving us a fuller, deeper understanding of the religious tradition we belong to. For example, at one point, Merton elegantly and brilliantly summarizes "Dark Night of the Soul" (St. John of the Cross) in a way that makes it fully relevant to the modern reader. As a bonus, this edition contains an introduction by the distinguished Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (who in some respects is himself a Buddhist version of Thomas Merton). Hahn explores and compares the spiritual struggles of Buddhism and Christianity with respect to prayer, meditation, practice, and God--on those crucial levels we see that ultimately we have one nature, despite the obvious and superficial differences that tend to separate us. On a literary note, "Contemplative Prayer" will be particularly interesting to those drawn to existentialism or seeking a deeper understanding of it. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Spiritual Classic
"Contemplative Prayer" is a spiritual classic that is very uplifting and informative. If one is interested in meditation and the spiritual path, this is probably one of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Phil Calandra
1.0 out of 5 stars "Spiritual Leaders of the Last Days?"
Brushing aside the insidious facade of spiritually romantic fallacies of Merton, and seriously studying his carefully cloaked enchantment and love for Zen and secret distaste for... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Dr. David Crews
5.0 out of 5 stars For Everyone....
I believe this 'small' book packs a very down to earth, powerful message. Every Christian should read this book. Thomas Merton wrote this so anyone could read and understand!
Published 6 months ago by vampyre mooose
4.0 out of 5 stars merton is the man
this was a little over my head, but i enjoyed the parts i did understand. i probably would benefit from a primer on the subject. Read more
Published 6 months ago by HankMan
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemplative prayer defined
It explains what contemplative prayer is and perhaps more importantly what it is not. It is very clear and I found it more helpful than most books I have read on the subject. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ellen Jones Morell
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for any serious student of contemplative spirituality and...
Awesome book. Reading it slowly and savoring it. He writes well on the topic of prayer and the inner life. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished, Choppy, Confusing Posthumous Work
I greatly enjoyed Merton's autobiography of his youth, "The Seven Storey Mountain," and looked forward to reading some of his theological writings written long after his youth. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Reader from Washington, DC
4.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom, Love and Peace
Pure Merton in language and terms than anyone seeking to better know God will appreciate. This is a book I will reread and reread.
Published 13 months ago by Disciple
5.0 out of 5 stars audio good also
I have listened to the audiobook of this many times, and finally got the real deal in order to properly quote some of the things that make me stop in my tracks. Read more
Published 13 months ago by cass
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemplative Prayer
I like this book and it meets all my expectations in a book about prayer. I would read this book more than once to gleen the result of an effective, quiet prayer life.
Published 16 months ago by Vern
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