Part of my exploration of Spiritual Direction is looking into specific academic programs. Jan Johnson is one of the faculty at the program I am leaning toward. I picked up When the Soul Listens because it was newly released on audiobook by Christianaudio.com and on sale for $4.99.
When The Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer was originally released in 1999 and was recently reissued. I initially felt some push back against Johnson at the beginning of the book because of emphasis against extemporaneous prayer and against written and fixed prayer. (Part of the renewal of my personal prayer life over the past decade has been finding fixed prayer and historic prayers especially using the Book of Common Prayer.) Part of her emphasis on extemporaneous prayer is based in the focus of the book on Contemplative Prayer, which tends to not be focused on fixed prayer. But also her background in Evangelicalism.
But as the book progressed, I was less bothered by the bias because of the clear wisdom about prayer in general. This is a book that I want to get in print eventually because there are so many good one line thoughts about prayer. Because I listened to the book on audio I didn’t write many of them down.
I have also started reading a second book on Contemplative Prayer, Flee, Be Silent, Pray. Both emphasize the fact that Contemplative Prayer is primarily about hearing from God and not ‘doing something’. Evangelicalism broadly tends to be overly focused on getting things done and utilitarianism. So much of what I have learned about prayer growing up and in college and seminary from the Evangelical world was about prayer as intercession, getting things done.
Contemplative Prayer is in many ways, anti-utilitarian prayer and a good corrective, although also not the whole of prayer.
(Also of note: Jan Johnson referenced Dallas Willard several times and she has written some study guides to his books. I can feel her relationship with Willard in the book. If you are a fan of Dallas Willard, this book builds on his work well.)