Book Review: Intimacy with God
Author: Thomas Keating
Publisher: Crossroad Publishing Co. ISBN: 9780824525293
This was a book that I have enjoyed and learned much from, but it wasn’t without effort.
First, let me say that I rate Intimacy With God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer a very good book on the subject of centering (or contemplative) prayer. I think it shares and teaches legitimate tools (techniques) that can be used to help facilitate prayerful union with God, but I don’t think this book is a “how to” manual of sorts. I believe that centering prayer is not something that can be taught through step programs as such, but centering prayer begins with the Spirit of God drawing the person into this holy and sacred union. Disclaimer aside, it is a good book.
I mentioned it was not without effort for me to read and glean from the book; the first few chapters, from the introduction to chapter three, were very difficult reading for me. I realize the care that Thomas Keating was taking to provide a foundation and education before moving into the practice of centering prayer, but it was tough reading for me; I got lost with the flow of the writing and I misunderstood his points on several occasions. It was only through persevering through these introductory chapters that later chapters and more explanation helped to make sense of some of the earlier work. I make this observation in light of familiarity with Keating’s writing style (Open Mind, Open Heart; The Better Part; The Mystery of Christ; The Human Condition; and others) which I have easily understood. Chapters four through seven (Divine Therapy, Deepening the Experience, Guiding Contemplatives, and Lectio Divina: Listening to Scripture) were, by far, my favorites.
It is important to understand the context that Keating frames this book. He contends that centering prayer is entirely a work of God that we enter into. He also contends this is the highest, deepest, and most unifying expression of prayer with God, but it is not meant to be an exclusive expression. In this book and in other works of his he states the following:
What centering prayer is and is not: (1) it is not a technique but a way of cultivating a deeper relationship with God (2) it is not a relaxation exercise but it may be quite refreshing (3) it is not a form of self-hypnosis but a way to quiet the mind while maintaining its alertness (4) it is not a charismatic gift but a path of transformation (5) it is not a para-psychological experience but an exercise of faith, hope, and selfless love (6) it is not limited to the “felt” presence of God but is rather a deepening of faith in God’s abiding presence (7) it is not reflective or spontaneous prayer but simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and emotions.
I think the above quote from Keating is important information to know. Additionally, I think because of the importance and the effectiveness in developing the relationship with God centering prayer affords the Christian, they would be well-informed to read other works on the subject. Keating is faithful to provide several works for additional study in the appendices of Intimacy With God.
This is a good book and I learned a lot. I have realized and found a language for sharing this expression of prayer that I have found difficulty talking about before. I have also been encouraged with the some of the supporting practices I learned in the book. It will be one that I recommend although there are others on this subject I have enjoyed more.