Quiet in His Presence: Experiencing God's Love through Silent Prayer

Article excerpt

Quiet in His Presence; Experiencing God's Loue through Silent Prayer. By Jan Harris. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2003. 19.1 pp. $12.99 (paper).

There are at least three ways of reading Jan Harris's book on silent prayer: as a personal testimony of the author's journey of faith; as an inquiry into the meaning of silent prayer; and as a reflection of the lasting value of the fourteenth-century classic The Cloud of Unknowing, Anyone who enjoys reading personal religious testimony, which in this case includes references to the author's early life in Australia, time in England, and then in the U.S.A., will not he disappointed. Harris does not omit painful memories of failed marriages and periods of depression, but moves on to find new life and rehabilitation through prayer.

Throughout the book, Harris focuses on what she terms "the most exciting discovery of my life," which occurred when she discovered contemplative prayer by means of The Cloud of Unknowing, a book which "changed my life" (p. 11).

Finding the book led the author to the experience of the presence of God in new ways that astonished her. She describes this prayer of silence as "being in God's presence without words" (p. 12). Although she approaches the prayer of quiet modestly, by stating that she is only a beginner, her reflections reveal one who has experienced the grace and love of God profoundly.

She describes silent prayer in its various forms as centering prayer, contemplation, and especially as prayer of unknowing, in seeking to engage the reader in her experience of the mystery and power of prayer. The book is organized in three parts, referring to ways of understanding Gods presence: "Why be Quiet," "How to be Quiet," and "How Being Quiet can Change Your Life."

In her effort to delve into the meaning of the prayer of unknowing, Harris draws upon many biblical references, along with her personal testimony, to illustrate the power of the Spirit. …