Downtime, Helping Teenagers Pray by Mark Yaconelli (El Cajon, CA: Zondervon, 2008), pp. 286, paper $21.50

This is yet another book by Mark Yaconelli attempting to promote contemplative Christian living among young people (see his Contemplative Youth Ministry and Growing Souls).   Although much of Downtime speaks of prayer, the real topic of the book is rest—how to find relief from anxiety, with prayer being the means of providing that relief (pp. 19, 23-25, 43, 59, 60, 67, 136-140).

Yaconelli believes the best way to obtain this kind of rest is through practicing the methods found in ancient Christian tradition.  By Christian tradition what the author means is the Roman Catholic contemplative tradition found in the life of the desert fathers and mothers and various Catholic, Orthodox and Quaker mystics (pp. 21, 128, 137,268, 270, 273).  He draws his teaching almost exclusively from the mystics:

Meister Eckhart (pp. 27, 33, 35, 167)
Brother Lawrence (pp. 36, 55, 186)
St. Seraphim (p. 50)
Thomas Merton (p. 54)
Teresa of Avila (pp. 54, 102, 142, 157-158)
Francis of Assisi (pp. 54, 130, 135, 257)
Henri Nouwen (pp. 54, 134)
Mother Teresa (pp. 54, 94, 96, 235, 282)
Quakers (p. 101)
Brennan Manning (p. 104)
Desert fathers (pp. 128, 137, 270)
Catherine of Siena (p. 142)
Julian of Norwich (p. 142)
Ignatius of Loyola (pp. 147, 224)
Matthew Fox (p. 195)
Cloud of Unknowing (p. 276)

From these contemplative celebrities Yaconelli recommends the following mystical practices to his readers:

 Silence – it is God’s first language, we are told (pp. 56, 94)
 Sabbath (p. 67)
 Centering down (pp. 72-76)
Creating sacred places (pp. 78-85)
Focusing on breathing (pp. 90, 138, 145-147)
Solitude —  the furnace of transformation (pp. 134-135)
Imagination (pp. 142-158)
Awareness examen (pp. 224-227)
The Jesus prayer (pp. 270-272)
Centering prayer (pp. 273-277)

The most important point to notice from Downtime is that the practices and teachings recommended throughout are not found in Scripture, but in contemplative tradition.  The few attempts Yaconelli makes to support his views from the Bible are virtually all failures.  He either rips the passage out of their context, or badly misinterprets them in futile attempts to find some biblical backing for his thoughts (pp. 107, 142, 200, 267, 270, 278).  Sadly there is none.

Downtime has essentially no value except to document the ways our churched young people are being led astray by the spiritual formation movement.

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