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The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  3,714 Ratings  ·  214 Reviews
Henry J.M. Nouwen, one of the greatest of all spiritual writers, invites us to search deeply for the well-springs that nourish true ministry in his classic The Way of the Heart. Interweaving the solitude, silence, and prayer of the fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers and Mothers with our contemporary search for an authentic spirituality, The Way of the Heart not only lea ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by HarperOne (first published 1981)
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Jun 18, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing
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
(Upon my second reading)

“Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these for these are the sources of sinlessness.”

A valuable retrospective on the prayer life of the Desert Fathers, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Drawing on the main themes of solitude, silence and prayer, Nouwen offers an alternative to the western church’s going-through-the-motions approach to following Christ.

“Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing can we show our wounds; only with a
Kathleen Kurlin
Apr 01, 2013 Kathleen Kurlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 03, 2015 Jkanz rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the sources of sinlessness.-Abba Arsenius

The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (1981) by Henri Nouwen is a short book with deep impact. At just 96 short pages, Nouwen provides much to think about. In essence, Nouwen examined the importance of solitude, silence, and prayer through the lenses of the desert fathers, Christians who lived in the Egyptian desert during the 4th and 5th centuries.

Flee--In the first section,
Sarah Milad
Feb 07, 2016 Sarah Milad rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
معرفش...بس مش زي كتب هنري نويين..لدرجة اشعر انه مش كتابه اساسا!!!
معرفش يمكن عشان الاب داود لمعي حاطط التاتش بتاعه......مش عارفة
الكتاب يغلب عليه الطابع الارذوثكسي بشدة و يمكن كمان لاني مش مقتنعة بفكرة رهبنة و الهروب للصحراء ...و كتاب كله كده !!! و أري انها عكس ما يطلبه منا الكتاب المقدس.

بس الكتاب لطيف

إن الناس ليسوا هم الغاية من حياتنا..بل الله..لأننا لن نجد راحة سوي في شخص الله
الصمت طريق آمن إلي الله
May 01, 2008 Susie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Apr 28, 2009 Jasonlylescampbell rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2013 Angel rated it really liked it
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
Jan 23, 2017 Mindi rated it it was amazing
This was a life changing book for me.

Nouwen discusses three of the disciplines of the Desert fathers and mothers, solitude, silence and prayer.

The purpose of the book can be summed up in the following quote, "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."
Porter Sprigg
Apr 27, 2016 Porter Sprigg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Thought-provoking and simple reflections on the value of solitude, silence, and prayer. I especially enjoyed the section on prayer and how it will change our hearts by allowing us to share in God's heart for humanity.
Apr 08, 2008 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More and more I'm thankful for the small books, simple but profound ones--those that are just long enough to get you off the couch and motivated to do the work that needs doing, reaching the heart. This is one of those books.
Cory Jones
Mar 18, 2016 Cory Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing. It's an easy read, but best to digest it slowly. I'll keep this one on my desk (and not the shelf) as I'm sure I'll return to it over and over. Anyone wanting a fuller experience in solitude, silence, and prayer should read this.
Mar 31, 2011 Nicki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicki by: Wendy
Re-read this one and I didn't get much out of it at all.

This is one of those books that has come along at the right time for me. Its very short but has so much depth that it definitely needs to be meditated on. I'm going to read it again and again.
Lori Neff
Oct 16, 2013 Lori Neff rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This was my second time reading this. I read it 15 years ago, so I read it this time with very different eyes. Loved it - it's a short, rich book.
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.
Nicholas Quient
A quick and insightful little read, but its brevity is a bit of a drawback - especially since the Desert Fathers and Mothers are invoked but not full explored.
Sep 02, 2011 Joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing journey into my own heart as I read this. Worth keeping around for a reread any time.
John Burge
May 18, 2016 John Burge rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I read Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers many years ago, and on a whim I decided to pick it up again. I hadn’t read any works of Christian mysticism or spirituality in a while, and so I pulled out a stack of books including Nouwen, Tozer, Augustine, and a Celtic Daily Prayer devotional. I started on Nouwen, figuring that I could get through it quickly, even if I didn't like it. As it turns out, I liked it a lot – much more than I remember. It ...more
Grace Phua
Jun 25, 2017 Grace Phua rated it it was amazing
Beautiful writing without choking us to death with details on the desert philosophies and practices. Nouwen takes us on a gentle journey both inward and skyward (towards Jesus and heavenly silence)... he nudges us to reconsider what we believe about silence and talking ("the wordy world") and gives us simple and guided spiritual examples and steps to understanding what it was that made the desert fathers and mothers so at peace with themselves and with everyone around them. The gift of silence !
May 08, 2017 Jeff rated it really liked it
Nouwen's starts with a thesis that is worth thinking over, namely that solitude, silence, and prayer are especially key aspects of ministry today. While the section dealing with silence was a bit weaker than the others, Nouwen'a suggestions on why and how to practice solitude and prayer were both thought provoking and helpful. This book easily makes the list of books I would like to read again (indeed, I'm considering purchasing my own copy).
Dec 10, 2016 katie rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirit, read-in-2016
Lovely. Read in small doses from the nightstand. Raises interesting questions about how much language we use in prayer vs. how much heart.
Jun 25, 2017 Amber rated it really liked it
He left me wanting so much more explanation of what he was trying to say. The the basic info he gives is superb.
Mar 14, 2017 Olivia rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful little book on Solitude, Silence, Prayer. I will be returning to it again and again.
Andrew Frazier
Jun 08, 2017 Andrew Frazier rated it it was amazing
I had to read this for a leadership class at church and I highly recommend this book for those looking to pursue life long ministry and church leadership.
As always, Nouwen is direct, relevant, concise, and challenging. He doesn't mince words or skirt around issues, and he doesn't coddle. His writing is full of hope and both a) shows me how much more deeply I could go in my relationship with God, and b) shows me practical steps to get there instead of leaving me in despair.

This book was particularly well-timed because I have been feeling scattered and aimless, and I know that poor discipline in exactly the three areas he touches on - solitude, sil
Aaron Priebe
I honestly did like this book when I first started it. It felt too wishy washy, and overly spiritual, sacrificing common knowledge for these desert fathers and mothers that no one really knows. But the principles that come out of this book are astounding and I found the truth of God's word and the teaching of the Holy Spirit through this book. The section on prayer was by far my favorite. He does a great job in the summary at the end of the book. If you don't like solitude and silence the way he ...more
Oct 13, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it
A book you'll want to read slowly and take time to reflect on how you can cultivate the spiritual disciplines of solitude, silence, and prayer to be a way of life.

I love that the explanation for solitude here is "not a private therapeutic place" but "Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs." That it is in solitude that we don't "catch a break from the world" but that we m
Benjamin Vineyard
Apr 29, 2012 Benjamin Vineyard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 (
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
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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...

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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.” 45 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.” 31 likes
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