Cover Image: Opening to God

Opening to God

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Member Reviews

Despite our differences in some parts of what we believe, when I saw Opening to God by David G Benner come out, I was really looking forward to reading it because of the topic and how it might lend well into spiritual direction.  I love Lectio Divina and looked forward to seeing what he included in this read.  I enjoyed his invitations to take a moment to note… or take a pause to pray… things serve as a call to pause…  He also includes information on the examen, which he calls an exercise of God-spotting, and the labyrinth.  He includes quotes from other people in his books.  
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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David G. Benner has refreshed his book “Opening to God” and I’m glad, it brought it to my attention! He unpacks the essence of prayer and reviews four classic prayer paths: attending, pondering, responding and being. In each of this, he breaks them down further and then writes nuggets of truth I have found myself digesting for days.

“Lectio divina treats Scriptures not as a text to be studied or a set of truths to be grasped, but as the living Word— always alive and active, always fresh and new.”

From “Opening to God” by David G. Benner
This is not a book to be rushed but one of be savoured, to be practiced. I found I would read a short piece each night, try out the recommended practice, reread the piece and then keep the cycle going digging deeper into it each time.

“When we ponder something we hold it lightly and give it space. We turn it over and consider it from various angles. We ruminate on it—that is, we think about it repeatedly, slowly and casually, efficiency of our thought process not being as important as carefully considering all aspects of the issue.“

From “Opening to God” by David G. Benner
The framework created is robust but the manner of delivery is a gentle embrace, a safe space for the soul to explore, play, lament and heal.

“Prayer is divine communion that enables us to engage the world with renewed focus, competence and passion—and with all of our natural gifts and abilities.“

From “Opening to God” by David G. Benner
If you are looking for calm and peace, for connection practices and soul space, this is one to pick up and enjoy! It is five out of five on the enJOYment scale and highly recommended!

I received a complimentary copy of the book from InterVarsity Press through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Opening to God by David Benner is a helpful book on prayer. Written and well researched from both a theological and psychological perspective the different ancient avenues of prayer and how it transforms us are explained. Too often we tend to think of prayer as one specific way- talking to God, using words. If you are aware of a desire to change up your prayer life and have a deeper intimacy with God, this is a good book for you to read. There is depth to this book,, yet it is easily understood. I agree with the author when he says, “ If you seek a deeper openness to God and long for God to continue the divine work of making all things new- in you and in the world- then read on.” There are also questions at the end that are good if you want to use this for a book club.  #netgalley #openingtoGod #goodreads
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Prayer is more than conversation or communication. It is more than simply words uttered out from our mouths. Prayer is a deep relationship with God toward communion. At the heart of prayer is love and longing to be with God more. For many of us, prayer is has been reduced to merely asking for things. If prayer is a relationship of longing, surely we need to learn to listen first. For prayer is much less about doing and more about being. It is about an encounter with Love. Prayer is that journey into Love. In describing this journey, author and psychologist David Benner reminds us that listening is a big part of prayer. It is in fact a crucial part of prayer that many of us had unwittingly left out. Benner makes several poignant observations about the conventional prayer practices many of us do. 

- Seeing prayer as an obligation rather than spontaneous desire;
- Observing spiritual discipline instead of earnest devotion;
- Prayer as doing instead of being;
- One-way instead of bi-directional;
- Prayer beginning with mouth instead of from the heart;
- Monologue instead of dialogue.

After listing down several possible ways to turn our monologues into conversations, he introduces us to the ancient practice of lectio divina. The hope is that we will grow our prayers from one-way communication into dialogues and conversations to communion. The preparation part includes the readiness to be open to God; to be radically honest with God; and to learn the language of prayer. He urges us to find our own "prayer dialect" and lists four classic prayer paths for us to follow. These paths are taken from the lectio divina's reading (lectio); inquiring (meditatio); responding (oratio); and contemplating (contemplatio). Benner calls them attending, pondering, responding, and being, respectively. Holistic prayer incorporates all of these paths. 

In "Prayer as Attending," the key is not to pray to get God's attention but to pray in a way that God will be pleased to come to us. Many Christians live as if God is absent. Prayer is that practice to sense the presence of God. Readers learn how to keep watch and to pray the examen. In "Prayer as Pondering," we learn soul reflection, especially when we let Scripture meditation or study guide our thoughts. "Prayer as Responding" is what we commonly begin with when it comes to prayer. We often take this third path as our first step. Here, Benner guides us with four elements: Faith, Praise, Kingdom Hope, and Petitions & Intercessions. Finally, "Prayer as Being" is about resting in the presence of God, or as the mystics call it, Union with God. 

My Thoughts
In one book, Benner has incorporated much spiritual wisdom from the saints of old. There is the Ignatian Prayer of Examen; Centering prayer; Simone Weil's attentiveness prayer; Jesus Prayer; Contemplative Prayer; and so on. He not only introduces them as snippets to help us along, he uses them to tell the story of prayer. All of them are used to fill up the framework of the lectio divina. There is a lot of spirituality lessons in this book that make it not just a prayer book nor a book of prayers. It is actually living out authentic spirituality. In order to get to that point, Benner shows us the way with careful explanation of the concepts as well as suggestions at the end of each chapter. This book guides us into a deeper level of prayer. A lot of our prayers tend to be superficial and merely about asking for things. Benner reminds us that prayer is not just a relationship but a longing. Each of the four paths of the lectio divina has one common theme: Desiring God. 

For some readers, there is hesitation when they read about spiritual mystics like Sufis mentioned in the book. I assure such readers that the mere mention of these does not change the overall thrust of prayer and Christian spirituality. There is a reason why many are turning to the spiritual wisdom of old. That is because they are so rich in spiritual insight and have withstood the test of time. If there is any concern, it should be the lack of learning from our past. My point: Do not disregard practices simply because of their association with people who do not share our faith persuasion. Learn the intent and the motivation behind the discipline. If it is about legitimately reaching out to the God we love, why not?

Perhaps, the way forward is to use this book both as a personal spiritual guide but also as a group prayer project. There is one resource that I can point to. That is "Lectio 365" which can be downloaded as an App on Apple Store or Android store. 

David G. Benner (PhD, York University) is an internationally known depth psychologist, author, and wisdom teacher whose life's work has been directed toward facilitating human unfolding through a journey of awakening and transformation. He is the founding director, teacher, and mentor of Cascadia Living Wisdom. He has authored many books, including The Spiritual Journey trilogy: Surrender to Love, The Gift of Being Yourself, and Desiring God's Will.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of InterVarsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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David Benner never disappoints!  I have read this book more than once and I appreciate the updated material included in this new release.  Benner reminds us that God seeks us as we seek God.  His explanations are clear and reassuring that deeper communion with God is always possible.  I highly recommend this book.
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In our time, prayer is a topic that has taken on more importance, many Christians and non-Christians are interested in knowing “how” prayer works and how we should pray. There is much interest in the form, but we have forgotten the most important thing about prayer, which is, communion with our Lord.

In this book entitled “Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer" (Expanded Edition), Dr. David G. Benner helps us to understand that prayer is more than forms or something systematic, but that it is a lifestyle, in which the believer responds to God through prayer. Prayer, more than formalities, requires faith, honesty and devotion, it is not about pretending something that we are not before God, but about being who we are, dependent on his grace and love.

The focus of the book lies in two ideas: prayer as communion with the Lord and lectio divina as a guide. Personally, I knew little about lectio divina, and reading the contributions the author makes in chapter two has encouraged me to investigate more about the role of lectio divina in spiritual life and how the Church has used it. However, chapter two makes a good introduction on this matter. Have you ever read the Scriptures, finding nothing in it but technical information, but not the Voice? This is where lectio divina becomes important to hear what God wants to say to us through the Scriptures.

The difference between "Opening to God" and other books on prayer is that its approach is very practical, in fact, at the end of each chapter, readers will find some suggestions to deepen the aspects covered.
The book is divided into nine chapters, the first three as an introduction to prayer and lectio divina, and the other six chapters to consider prayer in a holistic way.

At the end of this reading you will be inspired to renew your prayer life and also to use lectio divina, all of this to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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"Prayer is not simply words that we offer when we speak to God but an opening of our self to God." Benner explains a movement away from prayer as something should do to prayer as a way of living your whole life. He speaks about how transformation is central to spirituality. The focus is not on how prayer changes things, but on how prayer changes those who pray. 

Benner gives a good overview of a variety of Christian prayer practices and presents them with an awareness of the diverse ways that prayer can occur and be a way of life. I appreciated his acknowledgement that different styles will seem to resonate at different times in our lives.
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David Benner's book is a beautiful, helpful and inspiring book guiding the reader in how they might deepen their prayer life and live a life of prayer. He introduces the reader to the concept of "openness to God" as the key to prayer He focuses on Lectio Divina: Lectio (Prayer as attending), Meditatio (Prayer as pondering), Oratio (Prayer as responding) and Contemplatio (Prayer as being). 

I appreciated how the book was not just theological and theoretical but also full of practical and real-life examples.  If you are not familiar with some of the more classical approaches to prayer, some of his terminology and his framework for prayer could be confusing as he doesn't explain all his terminology. Since reading it, I have found that I am more regularly resting in God, open to Him and am more readily noticing God in my day to day. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to refresh their prayer life and would benefit from a mentor in prayer.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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