Prayer and Formation in the form of a novel?

Edit: I want to expand two pieces of this brief post – I want to focus not just on prayer but on formation in Christian spirituality; and let’s expand to modern literature, not just novels.

Which works of literary fiction have you read that speak deeply to you about formation in faith and about prayer?

If I am able to teach the course in prayer for The Seattle School again next fall, I’d love to find a novel that would let us dig into spiritual formation and prayer through story.  As an example, I’m reading Chaim Potok’s My Name Is Asher Lev at the moment and could certainly see something like this being a good jumping off point.  But there are others, I’m sure.

What literature comes to mind that you would recommend?

  • Pat

    A list from a friend on another site:
    Gilead -Marilynne Robinson
    A Prayer for Owen Meany -John Irving
    Franny and Zooey -J.D. Salinger
    Silence -Shusaku Endo
    Wise Blood -Flannery O’Connor
    Life After God -Douglas Coupland
    The Brothers Karamazov -Fyodor Dostoevsky
    The Brothers K -David James Duncan

  • Matt Morgan

    The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Heartily seconded.

    Lying Awake, by Mark Salzman. First read this for a Fuller class, I think. Probably the only such book I’ve reread since.

    The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis. Feels like it’s grown with me through the years as few other books have.

    The Book of the Long Sun, by Gene Wolfe. Theology, fantasy, science fiction, entwined in layer upon layer. Maybe too long for a class, though (originally four volumes, nowadays printed in two thick omnibi). Wolfe develops the formation theme extraordinarily further in the sequel (The Book of the Short Sun, three volumes).

    War in Heaven, by Charles Williams. Practically any book of his would qualify, but this is my fave.

    Lilith, by George MacDonald. As with Williams.

    • Pat

      Good stuff – thanks, Matt!

  • Pat L

    Two more responses from other friends:

    One notices that these books are all books are coming-of-age stories–or buildungsroman.
    – My Name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potok
    – A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
    – Jayber Crow – Wendell Berry

    And another writes this:
    – Oh, goodness, “The Book of Everything” by Guus Kuijer, about a young boy in a violent family who talks with Jesus. It’s such a quick read, and so moving and helpful. If you haven’t read it, just set aside an afternon.
    – “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo, even though it’s super sexist, there’s value in the boy’s story–prayer in action, lived prayer.
    – “Green Grass, Running Water” by Thomas King is sooo well-written and entertaining, and still deals with complexity of answered prayer and unanswered prayer, among plenty of other issues.
    – Poems, but still: it’d be interesting to do a selection of openings to classical works, like “The Odyssey” – the invocations of the Muses. These seem more and more important to me as a student, creative person, and person in relation. (Along with that, in “War of Art”, Pressfield speaks of his invocation practices.)
    – Also: poems that could be prayers of modern lament: T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” and “The Hollow Men”. There are lines I recite from these more often than I should admit.
    – And again, not a novel, but creative nonfiction: “For the Time Being” by Annie Dillard, which would lend itself to an amazing conversation on hope and despair and the wide stream of what can be considered prayer.