I was assigned to read Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating for my small group at church as part of our exploration of spiritual disciplines. I was looking forward to reading it as my consumption of books on prayer has gone down significantly since I stopped working for an organization with the word prayer in the name.
Starting this book I really enjoyed it. The first chapter on contemplative prayer was the highlight of the book. It was obvious from his descriptions that he is well steeped in prayer.
When he first started writing about centering prayer, I was on board. Though I’ve never done it exactly by the technique he describes, I can appreciate the power of this type of prayer and it wasn’t much different.
However, the more he wrote, the less clear he got. I appreciate that he was trying very hard to describe something indescribable. However, after reading his summary chapter, I thought he would have done well to write only the introduction on contemplative prayer and the summary of the technique and then urge people to try it for themselves. In the end, there is only so much you can learn about prayer from a book and I found Keating’s writings only muddied the waters. In fact, for one other member of my group, the writing scared her away from centering prayer, which defeats the purpose.
The additional chapters were difficult to get through, and as I often feel with Christian books, were trying to be filler to make this long enough to sell as a book.
Overal, I don’t think I could recommend this book. Particularly for Protestants, I think it could drive people more away from the value of centering prayer than convince them to give it a try.