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Creating a Life with God: The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices Perfect Paperback – June 1, 2003
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About the Author
Daniel Wolpert worked as a research scientist, psychologist, spiritual director, farmer, teacher, and construction worker before earning his Masters of Divinity degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). Over the past nearly thirty years he has taught in the fields of psychology and spiritual formation, led retreats, and delivered talks in such settings as the Art of Spiritual Direction Program at SFTS, the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project, national ministry conferences, UCLA, UND medical school, Luther Seminary, the 5-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation and numerous churches, camps, and other ministry settings. Recently he has also worked as a church pastor while continuing his spiritual direction work in private practice and through the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. Daniel is the co-founder and director of the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing (MICAH, micahprays.org). He is also the author of "Leading a Life with God, the practice of spiritual leadership (Upper Room 2006), "Creating a Life with God: the call of ancient prayer practices"(Upper Room 2003), co-author of "Meeting God in Virtual Reality: using spiritual practices with media" (Abingdon 2004), and most recently "The Collapse of the Three Story Universe: Christianity in an Age of Science" (MICAH 2013).
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‘Creating a Life with God’ looks down through the Christian centuries at among others Anthony, Benedict, Francis, the lay women Beguines, the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, Julian of Norwich and Ignatius of Loyola. These were illuminated by solitude, Lectio Divina scriptural prayer, the Jesus Prayer, seeing God in nature, journaling and use of the body in prayer. The book looks at individual and corporate exercise of each discipline impact and provides step-by-step instruction for the use of each in an Appendix. ‘The trajectory of our prayer practices is slowly and inevitably drawing us out into the world around us; from the silent, solitary reflection upon scripture to the dark cloud of unknowing to the gentle resonance of the name of Jesus, we are led into an examination of the traces of God in our lives. This is the nature of a life with God: our experiences of the Holy naturally lead beyond ourselves, as God seeks to use us to show the power of divine love to others.’
I particularly valued Daniel Wolpert’s presentation of the Examen of Ignatius and the insight about how reviewing our lives employs the vehicle of time to show us our deep seated needs and strengths. ‘Just as an aeroplane leaves a vapour trail in the sky, Ignatius realises that God leaves a trail of experience in our lives. The key to finding the path that God leaves through our empire is to search for the evidence of that trail of experience. This search is the practice of the examen.’ In presenting this and other disciplines Wolpert majors on the struggle we face in facing ourselves and how these several disciplines help us humble ourselves, that is to know, love and forget ourselves. The dramatic effect of tithing in its challenge to self interest was helpfully spelled out as was the impact of the Jesus Prayer. ‘The practice of the repetitive prayer acts like a magnifying glass held up to the sunlight: it focuses an intense beam of spiritual energy on one point....slowly burns a hole... and we ‘pop out’ to the other side – into the kingdom of God’. This description rang true to my own experience of the Jesus Prayer and built the author’s authority in my mind as I read on through the variety of God disposing prayer practices he ably and convincingly presents.
The section on Lectio Divina scripture prayer makes one analogy with hypertext on a text filled website providing access to new depths and another one using dance. ‘Any good conversation consists of both listening and speaking. In a natural rhythm - a dance - both partners move and respond to each other in time to the music. This is no less true of the process of prayer. After a time of listening to God in the stillness, we are moved to respond. Yet we must remember not to do this too quickly or impulsively. Wait for the words to arise from deep within.’ Yet another analogy he cites from tradition is that of a spiral staircase of ascent to God similar to Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:12).
Daniel Wolbert has written a book that is evidently the fruit of a life immersed in the faith and prayer of the church through the ages. It is both inspirational and practical through its excellent appendix.