The Best Book on Prayer I’ve Read

It came upon me quite insignificantly, as a footnote in Ravenwilderness blog. The first time i read it, i bypassed it. The second time around, it caught my attention where the writer Maggie Ross left a short note: “the best book on prayer written in the last 200 years.” I know Maggie is no marketing type; she is the unassuming author of 4 books on contemplative spirituality (I’m sure she would object to the adjective before “spirituality” for true spirituality is grounded on a contemplative silent gaze on God as she has been practicing and preaching. For her, it’s not as if contemplation is one item on bargain in the stack of spiritual market. It is the very root of prayer and human activity. No midnight sale, no discount!)

So i virtually pried into the book, trying to know more about the author as my desire to have it grows. The next unexpected thing i know is receiving a new copy (instead of the used one i expected) from my mentor Michael in DC after asking it from him.

I browsed through its pages, aware that this is one book i have to go back over and over. Then i dropped a note of compliment for Fr. Martin Laird, OSA, the author of the book i’m talking about: Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. He responded so kindly.

Fr. Martin is an Augustinian priest and associate professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. In this book, every reader will gather Fr. Martin’s learned attempt of bringing the wisdom of the “old masters in prayer” like Eckhart and Julian of Norwich into a language and style so fresh and more than delightful to read to be consoling. It is one book of beautiful prose and immense depth on prayer a serious beginner or someone advanced in prayer must not miss. Praying families, individuals, seminaries, and religious communities will be greatly enriched by this rare treasure published by the Oxford University Press (2006). Atheists and agnostics can take care of themselves after once they read it. It’s Oxford U press, baby! Here are more acclaim for the book from Amazon:

  • “This is a beautifully written book. The language is profound, poetic, and free of worn cliches. It has obviously grown out of a life of study, erudition, and personal prayer.” —Worship
  • Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird is a wonderful introduction to the subject of contemplation. It has a vitality and relevance that are gripping. Contemplative books are often dry, but I found this a page-turner.” —Church Times
  • “In a world hungering for practical spiritual direction on how to manage distractions, moods, bodily posture, breathing, suffering, illness, addiction, and dying, Laird’s book stands out as a treasure to share with anyone who is seeking greater wisdom and peace. He provides us with an eminently accessible doorway into the land of God’s loving silence.” —Horizons
  • “Larid’s book defines how to sink back in God’s ground physically with breathing, mentally with “prayer words,” and spiritually with interior surrender. Through anecdote, Scripture, and classic wisdom, Laird illuminates a Christian path into the silent land. An able guide, he makes the trip more than worth the journey.” —Christianity Today
  • “This book is different. There are plenty of books on contemplation that feel rather tired–either wordy and labored or unhelpfully smooth and idealistic. But this is sharp, deep, with no clichés, no psychobabble and no short cuts. Its honesty is bracing, its vision utterly clear; it is a rare treasure.”–Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • “Often they say ‘you learn how to swim by swimming’ but a good coach or swimming manual is essential. Equally, we could say ‘you learn how to be contemplative by contemplating’ and a good guide or mentor is necessary. Into the Silent Land is just that. I tried it and it works. Try it.”–Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
  • “This is a beautifully written book. The language is profound, poetic, and free of worn clichés. It has obviously grown out of a life of study, erudition and personal prayer.”–Worship
  • Into the Silent Land is a beautiful and deeply consoling book, a reminder that prayer is both real and fundamentally simple. Not since Thomas Merton’s Contemplative Prayer have I encountered a guide to contemplation this wise and compelling.”–Douglas Burton-Christie, author of The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism
  • “With wisdom born of a life of prayer and study, Martin Laird invites us out of distraction and into the silent land where God is waiting. Taking the realities of affliction, fear and failure seriously, Laird offers an approach to contemplative life that is within reach of us all.” –Stephanie Paulsell, author of Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice
  • “Martin Laird’s book is a compelling introduction to contemplative prayer. He draws on insights from the Eastern Orthodox tradition of the Jesus Prayer, from the Western Carmelite tradition, from poets and novelists and from his own experience as retreat director and confessor. In the silent land, our wounds become radiant sources of compassion.”–Andrew Louth, author of The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys
  • Into the Silent Land reflects a happy combination of wide learning, authentic spiritual experience, and clear jargon-free prose. This work should be of inestimable value for anyone interested in the Christian contemplative tradition of prayer.”–Lawrence S. Cunningham, author of Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision

Thank you Maggie, Michael and Martin for the “gift”. Now, it’s time to keep sitting into silence…

(I took a photo of my book but can’t find the USB connector. Amazon has a different photo but the one by OUP here is what I got.)



6 thoughts on “The Best Book on Prayer I’ve Read

  1. Dfish! Welcome back. I see!- – The result of silence between blogging comes the great prayer book review.

    thanks for the share brotha!

    Here comes my quote of the day from your entry.

    Atheists and agnostics can take care of themselves after once they read it.

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