“Today I still feel deeply convicted about the value of contemplative prayer. And it is this passion and vision, first kindled many years ago, that inspires this book.” In these words, Daniel Wolpert captures the energy that brought old and new together for the challenge of life with God in the twenty-first century. As one whose doctoral dissertation focused on the practice of prayer, I believe this helpful volume, Creating A Life with God: The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices, can open new insights for the believing community.
While prayer is common in the world, the deeper practices of prayer remain a mystery to most people today. Even more disturbing is the simplistic, transactional conception that is prominent, reducing prayer to a wish list that is presented to a distant deity. Wolpert aims to move our attention to a deeper, richer interaction.
Wolpert, the cofounder of the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing, begins with basic truths of the value of solitude and silence as a foundation for the encounter with God. Following this, other tools for devotion are explored, including the Examen, Journaling, Walking, and Community prayer. The chapters are enriched by connecting each practice with a historical figure. For example, the chapter on “Body Prayer” draws attention to the sensual language of the Song of Solomon, then to the tragic medieval couple Abelard and Heloise. This human connection draws the reader away from mere knowledge and closer to lived reality. Each chapter offers concrete ideas for exploring the type of prayer. Wisely, the author moves these ideas beyond individual practice to embrace a group encounter.
Creating is intended for a lay audience. One might wish for more explicit theological grounding from some aspect of the vast resources of Christian thought. He acknowledges operating from a mainline Protestant tradition that is expanded by the thought of the Christian Mystical tradition. It seems the work could be strengthened by engaging the myriad of conflicting perspectives on prayer that populate the cultural landscape today.
The final two chapters add much to this 20th anniversary edition by focusing on how the contemplative perspective becomes actualized in the crisis today around climate and the issues of social justice. Many will be inspired to move beyond the prayer closet to the streets where the Kingdom is lived.
The Upper Room Publishers and the author have done the community of faith a service by bringing this work into the challenges we face now.