Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness

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Paulist Press, 1984 - Religion - 224 pages
2 Reviews
A monk reflects on the many aspects of the spiritual life with the basic attitude of gratefulness.

"A true delight." Henri J. M. Nouwen

 

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One of the things I first noticed about this book on being grateful is that it has sold many thousands of copies. Mine says, on the cover, "65,000 in print." That's a kind of best seller on a subject by a monk, a contemplative, and promises along the way by its subtitle the inviting phrase, "An Approach to Life in Fullness." There is a demand for living a good life, and one way is living a life of being grateful to God and having a heart of prayer, the book's main theme.
There are probably many reasons for the numerous readers of this work, including the fact that Brother David Steindl-Rast is a kind of hero in the retreat and talking world, a feat not to be belittled, for I came to know him by a tape I found meaningful: "We Dare to Say Our Father." Brother David is a Benedictine, and I have a reading list and a source for Benedictine books from the monastery New Camaldoli, Big Sur, California which I follow religiously. So you can say, I am reading required material. This is a good thing, for this book is a required text for Christians interested in the ideas of blessing and giving thanks to God, and in coming to some understandings about prayer which Brother David says, as quoted on the back cover, "God's will be done" I agree with the back cover statement, we are dependent on God's mercy. That is a religious thing to say, and this is a book for people interested in religious topics and understandings.
I think that you will find this a book on prayerfulness, too; that is one chapter title, "Prayers and Prayerfulness." I can think about this quote for a while, good advice from a man with a sense of proportion and humor: "Are my prayers a genuine expression of my prayerfulness? Do they make me more prayerful?"
The danger with reviewing this book is one is taken with the author, and wants to know more. He is a monk, and that is a mysterious thing, somewhat special to many people. The reader does meet the monk and the man in this book, his personality. Though at times a seemingly surface book of suggestions, like this one, "Most of us need a good deal of encouragement for giving. The way we are built (or, rather, forced into a warped shape by our society) the taking takes care of itself. It might be a good test if you checked for half an hour how often you say 'I take' and how often 'I give.'" He writes this in the chapter "Contemplation and Leisure." But the message, by its context, becomes enlarged. One is to pay attention to living the Christian life in the ordinary, during the day and in doing so be grateful for the things of your day and the life that has been granted. He believes, convincingly, "Thanksgiving, blessing, praise, all three belong to gratefulness."
Gratefulness is an acquired taste, so he says. "The banquet of life is the challenge to cultivate and broaden our taste." Because I have heard Brother David talk on the tape I suggest, his style and his "voice" come through all the more. This is a book written in a voice, a genuine voice of the writer. You will find this a palatable book.
There is another message to the book. It is within our reach to live a grateful life, and know something of gratefulness. Brother David says this is fun, and we can become more grateful, certainly better than complaining and cursing, by finding the play in the joyful mysteries of Living by the Word. He says, also in his words, they "teach us this playfulness." I like the light way he approaches things, many profound. Maybe there is a secret here "...The point of everything? Well, that's the point at the heart of each thing where the kernel for faithfulness is playfully hidden." So he writes in the chapter "Faith and Belief."
Another chapter title, "Love A "Yes" to Belonging." In "Fullness and Emptiness", another chapter towards the end of the book, he says in a mysterious way that we are becoming, by being
 

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - johnthefireman - LibraryThing

A very nice book with a contemplative flavour by the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast. Read full review

Contents

Foreword
1
Aliveness and Wakefulness
7
Heart and Mind
26
Prayers and Pray erf til ness
39
Contemplation and Leisure
60
Faith and Beliefs
84
Openness for Surprise
123
A Yes to Belonging
163
Fullness and Emptiness
190
Copyright

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