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Contemplative Prayer (Image Classics) Paperback – February 1, 1971
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
But I read this book specifically to learn about his views on Christian mystical meditation and I loved it. He synthesizes sources from the most renowned Catholic mystic thinkers and does so brilliantly.
A word---I read almost everything Merton says when it comes to Christ metaphorically. So I think it's important to say that this book isn't only for Christian seekers. As a Jew, a secularist, and an naturalist, I found Merton's discussion of meditation inspiring and brilliant. When you consider the way that Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and secular contemplatives all say the same things, almost verbatim! it warms the heart and makes me wonder why we ever fight wars over water and land when, if you go deep enough, we're all sustained by the same well.
Since it was conceived as a short manual for monks, in the first place, Editors seem to have thought necessary to add a quite long prologue _in comparison to the book itself.
Most people think of prayer as a corporate thing that you just do to talk to God. This book helps one to understand that prayer is a tool not just for connecting to the divine but also to oneself and gives a nod to the comtemplative prayer of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern religions such as Buddhism. Prayer not as communication and making wishes but prayer to transform ourselves and unite with God.
I come from a different Christian tradition than Thomas Merton, but I value his insights as I seek to walk the sometimes fearful, sometimes exhilirating, sometimes inscrutable path of prayer.