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The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry
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The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  2,790 ratings  ·  163 reviews
The modern classic that interweaves the solitude, silence, and prayer of the fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers and Mothers with our contemporary search for an authentic spirituality
Paperback, 96 pages
Published May 10th 1991 by HarperSanFrancisco (first published 1981)
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I've had this book on my shelf for quite awhile but had not gotten around to reading it. A couple of weekends ago I was scheduled to take a "personal retreat" which I try to do 3 or 4 times per year. As I perused my two shelves worth of Christian spirituality, formation, etc...the title caught my eye so I stuffed it in my bag with 2 or 3 other books for the weekend.

It only took a few pages to realize Nouwen was going to nail me. He identifies greed and anger as two critical sins which tend to pl
Mar 04, 2009 Gregory marked it as to-read
Shelves: spiritual
The best book for blogging.
from Stuff Christians Like by Prodigal Jon

Sometimes people ask me for tips about blogging. I don't feel particularly qualified to answer that question even though I do blog a lot. What I can tell you though is the name of the best book ever written about blogging:

"The Way of the Heart" by Henri Nouwen.

Here are three things I can tell you about this book:

1. It is only 84 pages long.
2. It only costs $9.31 on Amazon so it's super cheap.
3. I underlined almost every line on
Kathleen Kurlin
This book promises (from the book jacket) "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." This book delivered on what was written in the book jacket! I read this book very quickly and found myself wanting to withdraw from my daily life to a secluded spot somewhere so I could truly seek God with the hopes of hearing His words for me and my life. I woul ...more
Nouwen hits another home run. This short, 95-page text guides the reader to connect with God through solitude, silence and prayer. It grew out of the inner denomination consideration of the wisdom of the Desert Fathers of the Christian church and has value even to those of other faith walks.
Angel Roman
Originally posted in angelroman

I was dubious about reading this book, mainly because I did an online research about Nouwen’s life and finally found out that even though he respected his celibacy until his death he was struggling with homosexuality. Yet, I know He is respected among christians as a great teacher about spirituality and it’s not my intention to diminish his teaching or his life purpose.

With that being said, The Way of the Heart is about the story of the desert fathers (you can read
Once again, a little 95 page book from Henri Nouwen finds a way to powerfully penetrate my heart and requires months of soaking, processing, and re-reading to reach the end. This little quirk of Nouwen's, by the way, is not at all a bad thing. In fact, it is the mark for me of a truly amazing, insightful book.

Compiled from a lecture series Nouwen taught regarding the Desert Mothers and Fathers, _The Way of the Heart_ describes in detail three qualities often lacking in modern Christian spiritua
Amanda Tranmer
How fitting that a book about "desert spirituality" is both short and incredibly profound. That is the point. When words shared come out of the silence, solitude and unceasing prayer of a heart at one with the kingdom of God, few words are needed to be revelatory and profound. Lots of meaty truth. Simple and applicable.

Out of the epilogue: "Our compulsive, wordy, and mind-oriented world has a firm grip on us, and we need a very strong and persistent discipline not to be squeezed to death by it.
I began this book because I thought it would be awesome to join a book club at a local independent book store, and I already knew the author's style of writing as colloquial and insightful. The book club chose this book, and I was excited to read and discuss it!

I ended up not doing the book club, but I LOVED the book. I read it twice in a row! The second time I spent time journaling through it as well. It was worth pondering on very slowly.

Nouwen promises to help unpack some of the wisdom of the
Frank Terry
This was a good book. I've always had an interest in Desert Spirituality, and even though this was more about finding spiritual authenticity in our contemporary world, it was still a really interesting brief introduction to early Egyptian Christianity.

The biggest thing I took away from this book was our need for authenticity. Henri often discusses the need for silence and discipline and our need for solitude. He writes how easy it can be to talk and talk and talk and not really say anything. Th
Jun 24, 2012 Dave added it
Great reflection on what it means to "pray without ceasing." Portrays prayer - and God's work in response - as ongoing as I learn to turn my heart towards God.
Amazing journey into my own heart as I read this. Worth keeping around for a reread any time.
Tim Baumgartner
When I teach the history of Christianity, we talk about how Constantine's declaration of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. This changed SO much because Christians basically stopped being persecuted. This new-found freedom caused a lot of Christians to become lax and not 'make the most of the time' (Ephesians 5:15-16). In order to prevent following the ways of the culture, some Christians chose to abandon the big cities and head for places that were more conducive to focusing on G ...more
A short book looking at the ideas of solitude, silence, and prayer, inspired by the Desert Fathers. These fellows went off into the shifting sands to live removed lives that focussed on God, and Nouwen uses their teachings to bring these ideals to everyday life. He does focus most of the book on how those in ministry can use the practices, but for a layman such as myself there is still much here to ponder and hopefully incorporate into my prayer life.

Definitely worth the short time it takes to
David Gorgone
Henri has always been a go to writer during dry spiritual times. while I would recommend it as worthwhile with the warning you take it with a grain of salt. The practices of silence, solitude and prayer are very necessary in days like this where we are bombarded with noise and interaction any Christian's life can benefit from this. There are two problems. The first is his expectations are way too high. Daily life does not allow us to retreat for extended periods of timea. In the case of the dese ...more
Benjamin Vineyard
The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen (Book Reaction)

Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry

The Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity have always intrigued me. Their book of sayings is filled with a consoling yet perplexing spiritual guidance - words I've never read a parallel to. Yet, those words from the desert are laden with meaning, especially today.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers were prayerfully led to the desert right after the empiric absorption of Christianity into Rome (
Roan Steward
Henri Nouwen's "The Way of the Heart" is a mystic's diagnosis and prescription for an over-busied modernity. Though the application is universal, it seems that one of his primary targets are the clergy, whose m.o. has become too much like that of their secular counterparts in the business world.

The book, like much of Nouwen's work, could easily be said to be a collection of short essays collected into a book (albeit a short 75 pages). It is unified by its deference to the Desert Fathers, the ear
Solitude, silence and prayer.

I purchased this book having spent a number of months seeking to do more of all 3. For too long I've thought communing with God was a reflection of how many experiences I have of Him, whatever form they may take. However, I no longer seek the experiences OF Him rather to experience Him.

Nouwen's reflections of the "Desert Fathers" ( who lived in the Egyptian desert during the 4th and 5th centuries) lifestyle are a wonderful summary of how we can experience more of Him
Once there was a culture so malicious, yet banal that Christians felt they were drowning. The culture embraced them, persecution ended, but the violence of propaganda and the pagan way of life constantly assailed them. Many were sinking deeper and deeper into this poison culture. The spirit of the age was seductive and constant with its promises of happiness and material success. The constant refrain could be summed up as: "Keep your spirituality, that is something you enjoy ... just join us in ...more
Parts of this book didn't resonate with me at all. Perhaps because I read it while 3 little boys wrestled beside me and constantly interrupted me with requests for assistance. I might have been just a tad too distracted to pick up on the deeper meaning. Still there were times when I almost put it down shaking my head in consternation.

To be truthful... I can get a bit put off by the desert fathers. Sometimes they seem just a bit... creepy? Maybe that's too strong a statement or maybe I'm just ner
I picked this off my bookshelf to take on a plane because it was the smallest (in physical size) unread paperback I had. I was hoping it would have some universal wisdom in it but it felt geared more towards a very specific type of person who is Christian and a minister and that's not me. Also I don't think the message of solitude and silence is as helpful to me, an introvert who needs to be pushed to actually go interact with the world and who loves loves loves creating new things with words an ...more
It's easy to like a book with vague ideas that sound like they're in agreement with what you believe anyway-- the importance of compassion and how those who understand God will never judge others. But it's probably more accurate to say I don't really know what Nouwen means in most of this (short) book. For instance, he says that silence doesn't actually mean being quiet or not talking. Yeah, I think that, in that case, he should probably use a different word.
C.B. Shiepe
I've returned to this little book time and time again -- reminded that being human is something we must become -- and the value of practicing the disciplines of silence, solitude and prayer of the Desert Mothers and Fathers. It always reminds me to keep the furnace doors shut so the fire within can get hot. Two great companion books for understanding our "belovedness" are Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Baptist Metz and Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.
Daryl Miller
This book that looks at silence, solitude, and prayer that is very insightful. Nouwen does a great job using the experiences and writings of the desert monastic abbas and ammas from 3rd century to give insight and understanding into these practices and our need for them. The author could have said a lot more about each of these topics but seemed to intentionally try to focus on these disciplines in the context of the Desert Fathers. While the book is short (112) pages), it is profound and left m ...more
This book will clear up some misconceptions that many people have. Solitude, from a spiritual perspective, is not merely being alone, but being alone with God---two different animals altogether. Another gem, "Solitude is the furnace of transformation." Keeping the first definition in mind, you can begin to see why that is true.

Then there is the *fruit* or purpose of solitude---what is to come out of it. It is not to just fill ourselves up or to be selfish with out time. We are to come away with
David Campton
This was one of our church bookgroup books, and despite it's slight size demanded significant thought and prompted substantial discussion. I ended up reading it twice, once at a slower, more measured pace and the second time at pace over a couple of days. I must say that I enjoyed it more the second time round, particularly given what Nouwen has to say about the role of silence in this wordy world. It does significantly challenge the norms of mainstream ministry, and western spirituality in gene ...more
I am re-reading this book. Here's a challenging paragraph:
"Anger in particular seems close to a professional vice in the contemporary ministry. Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who do come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not and
Ben Zajdel
The Way of the Heart is Henri Nouwen's classic work on the Desert Fathers. The late Nouwen was an influential Catholic priest who left his post to care for a bed-ridden man who would never speak, eat, or walk.

In this book, Nouwen draws upon the wisdom of early monastic Christians. From their writings and lives, he illuminates three essential pillars of their faith--solitude, silence, and prayer.

This is a short work, less than one hundred pages, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up
Great reflection of how to slow down your life and listen for God. Solitude, silence and prayer are the three guidelines for us to follow from the book to help better our life in the fast paste and hectic world that we live in. This book had me long to learn more about the Desert Fathers.
Tim Beck
solitude. silence. and prayer. thus is the way of to be shaped by the Spirit, not by the world. Nouwen challenges us to live these three practices - and he outlines why and how with great detail - so as to become one with God, to have our heart melted and molded into the very heart of God.

life is full of busyness and chaos. i desperately desire times of solitude, silence and prayer. i think that is why i was drawn to this book.

some profound headers found in this book:
Solitude: the furnace of t
Joel Travis
Silence, Solitude and Prayer. The disciplines that bring an anchor to the soul and allows us to stop long enough to hear the heart of God. They allow the thoughts of the mind to engage the heart and finally for the heart to take over praying where the mind could not.

This book calls us all to purposefully stop and to rest with the Father. It disregards the notion that silence and solitude will bring self-centered reflection by countering that it is the very ability to rest in who we are in God t
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of
More about Henri J.M. Nouwen...
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World The Inner Voice of Love

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“We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with Him and Him alone. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. Solitude is a place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world.” 39 likes
“It is this nothingness (in solitude) that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. The task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone. The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.” 28 likes
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