• David Flowers

Top book recommendations: Spiritual Formation

Prayer space in kitchen

Top Books: Spiritual Formation

And so we come to spiritual formation. I have delayed writing this post because I have been trying to figure out how to keep the number of books in this category from overwhelming you, my dear readers. You will no doubt notice I am cheating a little bit with how I am laying these out in comparison with the other categories. This is perhaps my favorite genre to read and therefore I have come across a lot of awesome books in this vein.

1. All books by Dallas Willard, particularly Renovation of the Heart and Hearing God. Years ago I combined my transcripts from undergrad and graduate school and realized I had taken a total of 39 classes in psychology. That is a lot, but in all of those classes and all the years since I have never come across a book that states as clearly and beautifully how the human person is formed (or malformed) than Renovation of the Heart. Hearing God is the best book I have read on what it means to pray and hear something in return and how this works. Dallas is professor of philosophy at USC so his books are fairly dense, but highly rewarding. All of his books are excellent, but these two are  not to be missed. If you are feeling adventurous, take on his masterpiece, The Divine Conspiracy. Willard is the most influential voice writing on Christian spiritual formation today.  

2. The Life You’ve Always Wanted, by John Ortberg. If you read Willard and find it tough going, John Ortberg has done a fantastic job of making some of Willard’s ideas more easily accessible.

3. Most of Richard Rohr’s books. The one I recommend most highly is Falling Upward. Here Rohr beautifully explains how spirituality comes to look very different in the second half of our life compared to how it looked in the first half. Many people who are discouraged and confused in their faith will find that this book hits them right where they are.

4. New Seeds of Contemplation, by Thomas Merton. Merton, of course, was one of the most gifted and prolific spiritual writers of the 20th century. This book offers a refreshing look at Christian spirituality from a perspective many have not considered. One of the deepest and yet most accessible books I have read.

5. The Genesee Diary, by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen is another one of those authors who rarely wrote a bad book, and I have not read all of his books, but this one is my favorite among those I have read. Solid nuggets of profound truth in journal form.

6. Invitation to the Jesus Life, by Jan Johnson. Johnson is a spiritual guide and she writes with gentleness and compassion. This book is filled with practical exercises that, if applied, will teach you how to live the life Jesus lived.

7. One of my all-time favorite Christian books, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality gets at the heart of truths almost no one else had really written about before Peter Scazzero put it in this form: It is impossible to be spiritually mature and emotionally immature at the same time. If you are a Christian, but notice that you don’t really seem to be growing a lot, or if you have a lot of trouble in relationships, or struggle to experience God in your life, this book is for you.

I could probably recommend 100 books in this category but the ones I have mentioned here, if read, will move you to an exciting new place.

Question: What books on the spiritual life have influenced you the most?

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