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Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer Hardcover – September 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


". . . [A] good introduction for Christians seeking a deeper experience of connecting to God in prayer. . . . [T]here is much in Benner’s book that can be appropriated by anyone seeking to understand better how we can follow the biblical commands to 'pray without ceasing' (1 Thess. 5:17) and 'to abide with God'-- whether he or she is a beginner or an experienced pilgrim in the life of unceasing prayer." (Todd E. Pickett, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, November 2011)

"David Benner has given us another great gift with Opening to God. A tremendous book on prayer for people at all stages of their relationship with God. Practical, devotional and rich. This is a book I will go back to again and again." (Peter Scazzero, pastor and author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)

"In Opening to God David Benner comes alongside our lives as a wise and discerning companion. His words water our desire for God, encourage us in our spiritual practice and widen our lenses through which we view the landscape of prayer. They will speak to any heart that longs for a deeper, closer and more intimate walk with God." (Trevor Hudson, South African pastor and author of Questions God Asks and Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God's Beloved (forthcoming))

"One of the great blessings of my life is to have experienced scores of warm and insightful conversations with David Benner. I have walked away from almost every one with a deeper openness to the transforming love of God. And that is exactly how I was impacted while reading this wonderful book. What a gift! Life as lectio; life as prayer." (Gary W. Moon, M.Div., Ph.D., vice president and integration chair, Richmont Graduate University, and author of Apprenticeship with Jesus)

"Opening to God is an invitation to prayer--not just a book about prayer, but a guide for daily practice. Like an intimate retreat with a spiritual master, it brings centuries of wisdom close enough to speak to our lives. I've never met David Benner, but I felt like I was reading someone who'd listened to my prayers." (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (, coauthor, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers)

"David Benner's Opening to God should become a classic! It is warm, wise, gentle and challenging. For the beginner or the experienced it offers guidance in the Christian prayer practice of lectio divina, making this ancient monastic approach to prayer wonderfully accessible to the contemporary seeker. By no means is it a rigid or opaque 'how to' book, but rather an invitation to go ever deeper in the life of prayer. Reading it is like a conversation with a trusted friend." (Margaret Guenther, Episcopal priest and author of Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction and The Practice of Prayer)

"In Opening to God, David Benner has gifted us with a thoughtful and comprehensive guide to Christian prayer. The intimacy with which Benner writes about prayer betrays a deep and abiding knowledge of the subject, thus this book is destined to be valued by individuals and groups alike in their quest for more intimacy with God." (Tony Jones (, author of The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices in Everyday Life)

"This book represents a new maturity in spiritual thinking and teaching. David Benner is wise, broad and deep all at the same time. And you will be too after you finish this wonderful book." (Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico)

"In Opening to God, David Benner has given us a generous, comprehensive and very pastoral guide not only to the myriad types of prayer open to us as Christians, but also to the informing attitudes and physical nuances which can enable a rich prayer life in all of us." (Phyllis Tickle, compiler, The Divine Hours)

About the Author

David G. Benner (PhD, York University) is an internationally known depth psychologist, transformational coach and author whose life passion has been helping people walk the human path in a deeply spiritual way and the spiritual path in a deeply human way. Some of his books include Presence and Encounter, Spirituality and the Awakening Self, Sacred Companions and Soulful Spirituality.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780830835423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830835423
  • ASIN: 0830835423
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. David G. Benner is an internationally known depth psychologist, author, lecturer and cartographer of the human spirit and soul. The underlying passion of his life has been the understanding and pursuit of transformation - not merely healing or even growth, but the unfolding of the self associated with a journey of awakening. This has been the focus of his more than three decades of work in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and his more recent work as a transformational architect and coach. He can be found online through his website at or on Facebook at or Twitter @drdavidgbenner.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A. Morgan on October 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
David Benner writes "Prayer is living with openness to God. Our life becomes a prayer, and our prayer becomes our life as we begin to live with this openness as the core posture of our hearts" (pg 156).

I wonder how many of us can say that our prayer life is about openness to God. It is so easy to categorize prayer as an 'act' that we start and finish at some point in the day. Some of us have longer times of prayer than others but it is almost always seen as a period of time with a beginning and end. For Benner, this is not enough. Prayer is far more than that. In a winsome way Benner encourages us to look afresh at prayer. The heart of the book (chps 3-8) take us through the 'movements' of Lectio Divina, an ancient form of prayer using scripture, allowing the words of God to penetrate deep into our spirits. But the first two chapters and the introduction are as good an introduction to what is prayer and how we should prepare for prayer than I have ever read. I challenge you to read this book and not come away from it longing not just to pray more but to live a life of prayer. This book is a great addition to the books available on prayer. The only worry is that there are so many books on prayer that this 'gem' might be overlooked. Don't overlook it.

Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rev. Dr. Bruce A. Overstreet -pastor on April 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The image Benner creates in this book is the desire God has to bring us into
constant awareness of His presence and deep communion to Him. Our lack of awareness of His nearness is due to our being fearful or otherwise unwilling to open ourselves to Him. he has already revealed His deep desire to be come near to us through His atoning sacrifice. Benner describes the practice of Lectio Divina as a discipline that will help one open to God's presence. Overall, I found this book to be quite uplifting and refreshing. It is a wonderful book for personal spiritual encouragement. It would be well suited for a small group discussion guide, or a message series on personal spiritual growth and learning to walk with the Lord. I would highly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Dubuc on August 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book takes the ancient practice of lectio divina and expands it into a way of prayerful living. A very good book to read if you think your idea of prayer needs to be stretched: "Prayer is not simply words that we offer when we speak to God but an opening of our self to God." Benner helps his readers move from an idea of prayer as something you do--or ought to do--to prayer as a way of living your whole life: "Something is seriously wrong when prayer feels like something we should do. Prayer, more accurately, is something God does in us." Benner says that "transformation is foundational to spirituality." The primary focus of this book is not on how prayer changes things, but on how prayer changes those who pray. This is a very well written and thoughtful book with very practical application sections at the end of each chapter. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Duncan Harrell on November 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
David G. Benner's ability to turn a phrase sometimes reminds me of C. S. Lewis. Seems like a stretch doesn't it, but that's who came to mind. Benner does more than turn some pretty phrases. His words on what he calls "wholistic" prayer are descriptive and encouraging, but they are also practical. His thoughts on prayer are served greatly by his degree in psychology, making this one of the better spirituality books that I've read.

Advice on spirituality is often limitted, either because it suggests only one practical step in a multi-step effort or because it suggests a full pattern in theory but doesn't really flesh out a way to practice the theory. Benner, on the other hand, is able to offer both the theology/anthropology AND a step-by-step method of turning to God.

Take for example "The Welcoming Prayer" (154-56), which Benner suggests involves three elements: (1) recognition of a negative emotion, (2) welcome of the negative emotion, (3) surrender of the circumstance and emotion to God. One is often encouraged toward one of these pieces, but not all three. Sometimes a spiritual director will suggest noticing the body's sensations as a way of identifying the presence of negative emotions (step 1). Or one will read about Jung's "befriending the shadow," without a clear idea of how to do that (step 2). "Surrender" is a favorite concept for evangelicals and out of favor with liberation theologians (step 3). But Benner puts them all together, both in theory and in practice.

Benner uses lectio divina as a scaffolding for the book, develping each "rung" as a way of explaining his perspective on whole-person prayer.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jason Kanz on July 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're idea of prayer is that you bring a list of petitions to God during your morning devotions, Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer (2010) by David Benner may challenge your understanding of prayer. Benner, a psychologist and spiritual guide, certainly acknowledges the necessity of petitionary prayer, but in this book, he presents an extended reflection on why prayer is not just that.

Building upon the ancient practice of lectio divina (sacred reading), Benner suggests several different ways in which the Christian's prayer life may be transformed. For those unfamiliar with lectio divina, it traditionally consists of 4 movements--lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), and contemplatio (contemplation). It was developed as a way to engage holy scripture. Benner has expanded this idea into the world of prayer. The pray-er may engage in several different practices including: prayer as attending, prayer as pondering, prayer as responding, and prayer as being. As he describes how each of these approaches may be practiced, he shatters the notion of prayer simply as supplication.

There is much to commend about this book. I think many Christians, like me, have a stunted concept of prayer. Opening to God will assuredly push your boundaries of understanding what a life of prayer can look like. On the other hand, Benner's apparent full acceptance of the contemplative tradition including "emptying ourselves" seems at times to have more connection with Eastern spirituality than with orthodox Christianity.

On the whole, I would happily commend this book for those who feel stagnant in their prayer lives and hope to grow in relationship with God.
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