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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  4,823 ratings  ·  303 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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4.32  · 
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 ·  4,823 ratings  ·  303 reviews

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Jun 18, 2012 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
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nouwen writes here on solitude, silence and prayer. He writes this with much reference to the lives of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. In this he echoes Merton, who wrote a similar book. Every book I read by the likes of Nouwen, Merton and Rohr increases my appreciation. This is not just another run-of-the-mill book on spiritual practice, since the connection to the desert gives it a nice and refreshing slant. Very well done.
Neil R. Coulter
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Over the past month, I've been doing some fasting, seeking clarity of God's leading in upcoming decisions. When I fast, I like to focus on devotional reading. In previous times of fasting, I've worked through Richard Foster's excellent edited volumes, Spiritual Classics and Devotional Classics. This time, I looked at my bookshelf and found this small book by Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart.

Originally published in 1981, The Way of the Heart presents a few key insights from the Desert Fathers--
Mar 04, 2009 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 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
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nouwen examined what the Dessert Fathers and Mothers have to say to ministers in our time. He sought to answer the question: “What is required of a man or a woman who is called to enter fully into the turmoil and agony of the times and speak a word of hope? (2).” In the teachings of the dessert fathers and mothers, Nouwen discovered the wisdom to be attained through the spiritual practices of solitude, silence, and prayer. In solitude, focused time with God alone and no distractions, we come fa ...more
Aaron W. Matthews
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Admittedly I have been distracted in my Ministry because of the pressures and demands of all areas of my life. It is so easy to fall prey to the busy-ness of life. But, as Nouwen suggests, we have to find a way to swim from the shipwreck or we will drown with it. Through three simple ideals - solitude, silence, and prayer - this book teaches the value of living with not only the mind of Christ, but also letting his heart become our heartbeat so that we can find health in our own lives...and lead ...more
Elizabeth S. Matheson
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Everything I fear about silence and solitude, Nouwen explains thoroughly and beautifully so as to cast out all fear and inspire a deeper prayer life. He gives specific guidance and speaks to the mistakes I make when trying to pray and maintain a consistent and effective prayer life. Would recommend to anyone seeking to grow in relationship with God while living in the world and seeking to serve Christ's body while feeling that one can't find a great way to create space for God in a hectic life.
Jason Kanz
Sep 03, 2015 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,
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have read this small what I will call "Modern day Classic"many times since it's first publication. I have a few copies. I have one "dog eared" paper back which I gave to my father in the early 80's. He read it over and over again as I will continue to do for the rest of my life. In this day and age of darkness and turmoil I encourage all Christians certainly to read Nouwen's work, "The Way of the Heart, " it will indeed assist you as you strive to make sense of your life through the lens of a ...more
Joshua Ray
Jul 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Good insights but mostly a collection of stories about the desert fathers. Solitude, silence, and prayer are indeed important. But more emphasis on Scripture (especially Christ's example in this) would have drastically improved this short volume.
Lori Neff
Oct 16, 2013 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.
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, faith
This little book packs a powerful punch as Nouwen discusses the disciplines of solitude, silence, and prayer.

Solitude and silence are difficult to achieve in this world where we are continually bombarded by words, images, and noise in general. The book has given me much to ponder from its few pages, and the following quote sums its point up nicely:

"Solitude and silence can never be separated from the call to unceasing prayer. If solitude were primarily an escape from a busy job, and silence prim
Michelle Kwon
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautiful rendering of the process of solitude, silence, and prayer!

Especially love Nouwen’s take on solitude as a place to overcome your fears, thoughts, and distractions and literally come to the end of yourself.
Tricia Culp
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-life
This is a short, understandable guide to the principles of contemplation- solitude, silence, and constant prayer. Really helpful.
Christopher Pokorny
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Silence, solitude and prayer. Nouwen concisely addresses how to revitalize your spiritual life with the wisdom of the Desert Fathers, and calls this philosophy “the way of the heart.” Approachable, applicable and immediately actionable!
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
excellent! read this...
Dan Wolgemuth
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rich and deep. The call to silence, solitude and prayer is convicting and inspiring.
Dustin Turner
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short but profound! The concepts of silence, solitude, & prayer are foreign to us, especially in ministry. This short book is refreshing for all!
Ronald Abreu
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book of prayer ever

This is a great book and help us to understand the way our life and prayer life should be, it comes with great principles to apply in a busy world
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent introduction into the meaning and purpose of ancient desert monasticism and the practice of solitude, silence and contemplative prayer.
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
anything about the desert fathers & early christian ascetic practices is a must read. this is a topic that needs to be known more in Christianity, especially the West.
Jeff Lochhead
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finding solitude and silence is a struggle, one which never seems to be adequate. I could use constant reminders at this point to practice praying without ceasing. All good and worthy ideas, but I feel a bit stymied by total inadequacy.
Amy Webb
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great thoughts that I agree with... struggling with how to make them practical.
May 01, 2008 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 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 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
Apr 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Written for ministers, this book provides an argument for solitude and contemplative prayer and meditation as alternative and a more authentic route to "god Closeness" than bake sales, fund drives, volunteering, and choir service. It emphasizes the value of silence versus words, and explains beautifully how, in the West, we have become a culture of words. But words mean less and less and are spoken to convince, condemn, sell, manipulate, and entertain. For me Nouwen does an adequate job of descr ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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).
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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
“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.” 49 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.” 36 likes
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