Five Books About Spiritual Formation

By Tony Twist

The Imitation of Christ: How Jesus Wants Us to Live
By William Griffin (HarperCollins, 2001)

This contemporary version makes Thomas a Kempis’s time-tested classic from 15th-century Germany much more accessible. Book one helps us understand how a healthy spiritual life functions. Book two, especially good for modern Americans, helps us find our spiritual bearings. I especially like the section on friendship with Jesus. Book three brings us deeper into the type of peace Jesus wants us to have. The final book on preparation for Communion is desperately needed today. We are too often guilty of “popping the Chicklet and toasting our good health.” We need reminders on how to ready ourselves to actively participate in his perfect gift to the Father.



The Interior Castle
By Teresa of Avila (Doubleday, 1989)

Writing in 16th-century Spain, she depicts the soul as a castle made from a single diamond in which there are many rooms. Through the book we are led from mansion to mansion as the life of prayer progresses, always going further into the castle until we reach spiritual marriage. This is a compelling picture of complete transformation, all parts of us belonging completely to him. This book was written to teach the women under Teresa’s care how to advance in their life of prayer. The wonderful visuals, practical advice, and guidance toward spiritual maturity she provided for the 16th century is just as needed in the 21st!



The Spirit of Christ
By Andrew Murray (Bethany House, 1979)

Andrew Murray wrote from South Africa at the end of the 19th century. He left us many signposts to help along the way toward deeper spiritual prayer and maturity. This is a very readable version of one of them, containing many helpful prayers, notes, and summaries. This biblically focused devotional meditation gives us more than an introduction to the person and work of the Holy Spirit of Christ. It ushers us into his presence!



Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation
By Robert Mulholland (InterVarsity Press, 1993)

Mulholland was provost and professor of New Testament at Asbury Seminary when he wrote this book. His definition of spiritual formation as “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” is very helpful. He does not fall into the trap of either individualism or relativism with this definition. It is a healthy balance. His book gives us perspective by unpacking this definition with insights from both classical and modern sources.



Renovation of the Heart
By Dallas Willard (Navpress, 2002)

Willard emphasizes the great need we have for renovating “that spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come” (p. 14). This place has been malformed by a world away from God and can now be transformed into his likeness and image. This book is helpful in discussing how the different aspects of our being (mind which includes thoughts and feelings, will which includes heart or spirit, social dimension, and soul) can participate in this process of renovation.



Tony Twist is president and professor of leadership and spiritual formation with TCM International, Vienna, Austria.

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