Prayer Reading List

Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1970.
This short, beautifully written book is a very good introductory text on how to pray.

Ann & Barry Ulanov, Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer. Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1982.
A very helpful book on the psychology of prayer, including chapters on difficult subjects such as prayer and sexuality and prayer and aggression. This book rewards careful reading.

A New Zealand Prayer Book. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989.
The prayer book of the Anglican church in New Zealand contains prayers in both English and Maori, including some lovely alternative versions of familiar prayers and prayers for many occasions.


Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart. New York: Continuum, 2006.
A good introduction to centering prayer, a method of silent contemplative prayer that is somewhat similar to Zen meditation but derived from the Christian tradition. This classic book has recently been revised in honor of its 20th anniversary.

Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. Bloomsbury, 2012.
This book by one of the founders and great exponents of centering prayer explores the spiritual growth that takes place when centering prayer is seriously undertaken.

David Frenette, The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God.
Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2012.
David Frenette has taught Centering Prayer under Fr. Thomas Keating’s guidance since 1984 and is my own beloved teacher.  This wonderful book provides a good introduction for beginners but also goes more deeply into the practice for the more experienced practitioner.  Includes chapters on the sacred breath, the sacred glance, and the sacred nothingness as well as the sacred word.  The second part of the book looks at eight contemplative attitudes: receiving, consent, simplicity, gentleness, letting go, resting, embracing, and integrating. These attitudes represent subtly different ways of being in the prayer that allow one to relate to the sacred symbol more and more deeply.Thomas Keating calls David's book "the best, more comprehensive, and most practical book on centering prayer."  Read my extended review of this book on the Amazon website

David Frenette, Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2014.   
David's guided meditations are one of my favorite parts of being on retreat with him and these recorded meditations, available on CD or audio download from Sounds TrueAmazon or Audible, focus on the eight contemplative attitudes described in his wonderful book The Path of Centering Prayer.  The meditations can be used to introduce a period of Centering Prayer, then paused for a period of silent prayer, then turned on again to end the session. It's a lovely way to frame a session if you have a little extra time, like being on a mini retreat with David.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2004.
Cynthia Bourgeault has worked closely with Thomas Keating and this book is an excellent guide for those who would like to go deeper into centering prayer. Includes a good chapter on the welcoming prayer.


Thelma Hall, Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina. Paulist Press, 1988.
This classic book contains not only instruction for traditional lectio divina and theology but many reference numbers for scripture passages that may be used in lectio divina.

Christine Valters Paintner, Lectio Divina—The Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer. Skylight Paths, 2012.
This book approaches lectio divina with openness and creativity, exploring traditional and non-traditional approaches.  Includes passages and questions for reflection.

Watch a short video of my colleague Steve Standiford describing Lectio Divina.


The Saint Helena Psalter. New York: Church Publishing, 2004.
The Book of Psalms is a collection of one hundred and fifty ancient prayers considered scripture in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. They provide a biblical model of how to pray and express the full range of human emotions. This lovely translation of the psalms features inclusive language.

Stephen Mitchell, A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the HebrewNew York: HarperPerennial, 1993.
A selection of the psalms, translated quite loosely and very beautifully by the well-known translator and poet.

Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. Boston: Cowley, 2001.
A collection of excellent essays on the Old Testament, including six essays on the psalms which are helpful in understanding how to use the psalms in prayer.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD. 
Boston: Shambhala, 2006.
An introduction to chanting the psalms, from the simplest monotone to more complex systems, including a CD that provides examples of all the different styles. Chanting is a wonderful practice for those who are looking for a more embodied form of prayer.


Desmond Tutu, An African Prayer Book. New York: Doubleday, 1995.
An anthology of Christian and non-Christian prayers from Africa selected and with introductions by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthologyed. Timothy Ware. London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
An anthology of texts on prayer by different authors from the Christian Orthodox tradition. The Eastern Orthodox tradition has focused more on the practice of prayer, the "how to," than the Western church, and so their writings can be very helpful and practical. I particularly recommend the writings of Theophan the Recluse and St. Dimitri of Rostov in this anthology.

The Oxford Book of Prayered. George Appleton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
An anthology of primarily Christian prayers, with short sections of prayers from other traditions.


Richard Rohr’s Daily Email Meditations.
I begin my day with Richard Rohr's short, free, daily email reflections on contemplative spirituality. A Franciscan monk, Rohr has a deep appreciation of the spirituality of other religions and is very good at discussing with sensitivity and balance the ways in which Christians have gone off course and suggesting how Christian scripture and theology can be interpreted with intelligence, tolerance, simplicity, and love.

Contemplative Outreach website
Contemplative Outreach is a great resource for more information on centering prayer, centering prayer weekly groups, and centering prayer retreats.
These short daily podcasts include spiritual music, scripture passages, and suggestions for how to reflect upon the passages.