- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; Revised and ed. edition (December 2, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345463358
- ISBN-13: 978-0345463357
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 172 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence Paperback – December 2, 2003
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“In these increasingly more sound polluted and frenetic years, Henri Nouwen’s simple words about the prayer of the heart will be helpful for all who seek to turn from the complex wiles of the world to the simplicity of the love of God.”
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Since it was first published more than twenty years ago, "The Way of the Heart has helped millions of men and women cast off the anger and greed that trouble the world-and find love, compassion, and peace in the heart of God.
Inspired by the ancient teachings of St. Anthony and the Desert Fathers, "The Way of the Heart clears before us a spiritual path consisting of three stepping-stones: Solitude (learning not to be alone but to be alone with God); Silence (the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive); and Prayer (standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart).
Distinguished theologian Henri Nouwen brilliantly illuminates each of these disciplines. In reflections that are beautifully clear and practical, as uplifting on the fourth reading as on the first, he helps us separate the wheat from the chaff in our spiritual lives-and reconnects us with what truly matters.
Within this one small book lies the most relevant and inspiring challenge that we shall ever face: to surrender the compulsive noise of the world for the way of the heart that leads us to God.
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His book, The Way of the Heart, is a respite from all our distractions by opening up the spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mother for our generations. He leads one through the basic spirituality of the Desert and breaks it down into three components -- solitude, silence, and prayer. He doesn't assume that any of us can fully step away from our lives as he didn't. So he gives some concrete ideas for each of us to use to be able to listen to God by pulling ourselves away from the noise, being silent with God, and entering contemplative prayer.
I highly recommend this book. It is short enough to read multiple times. My book is now highly underlined and commented in as it sparked many thoughts as I read it.
He calls solitude the “furnace of transformation.” It is a place of great struggle and great encounter; “the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offered himself as the substance of the new self” (16). The significance of solitude is this is the place where we remove all the entanglements we have come to rely on to make it through the day, or through life’s journey. All of us have this “false self” that drives our attitudes and behaviors. And it is this false self solitude deals with. Solitude reminds us “the goal of our life is not people. It is God. Only in him shall we find the rest we seek” (32).
Silence is the actual component of solitude, in fact, it is the key that makes solitude a reality. Nouwen offers, “silence is solitude practiced in action.” In silence, our words both written and spoken, regain their creative power. There is a guarding of the tongue we don’t experience in non-stop community and communication. Silence becomes a purification of sorts. In community, which represents another spiritual discipline, words lose their power and significance. Silence teaches us to return to the power of God’s words and the impact they have on our lives. In silence we are no longer in competition for our words, but desperate for God’s word. The essence of silence is that it “helps us to keep our mind and heart anchored in the future world and allows us to speak from there a creative and re-creative word to the present world” (59).
Both solitude and silence set the table for a deeper, even more vital connection with God through prayer. Solitude is not about being alone, but being alone with God. Silence is not the absence of words, but is a way of listening to God. The crisis of prayer is that our minds are filled with many ideas of God, yet our hearts remain distant. The challenge here is real prayer comes from the heart. In prayer we re-connect with the God by identifying what is essential, the kingdom of God. Instead of focusing on the thoughts that flood through our minds, we focus on hidden reality of the kingdom of God. Where the kingdom of God is, there is life and freedom and power. Therefore, we hide nothing because we come face to face with God’s mercy.
Solitude, Silence, and Prayer help us remain connected to the Father, and therefore useful for ministry. We are less likely to say to a person in need, “I’ll be praying for you.” We will listen to the Holy Spirit, and in that place of community with people we will say, “Let’s pray right now.” We are more apt to bring the rest that comes from these disciplines into our everyday lives.
The obvious challenge with these disciplines is taking the steps to get there. Whether it is because we are desperate, burnt out, or simply sensing the need for renewal; there is hope for renewed or restored connection with the Father.
If you are new to Nouwen, I'd recommend that you also read (maybe even first) The Life of the Beloved and also The Return of the Prodigal. These two are my favorites. But Nowen is the kind of author that you will want to read all his books. They tend to be very short, easy to read, but very insightful. These are the kind you may need to read twice to get the full depth.
Nouwen is very, very special.