Spiritual Formation Quotes
Thoughtful quotations on being formed in Christlikeness

The quotes are ordered alphabetically by the authors' name, usually their surname. If they are known instead by their given name (often accompanied by a location) then you'll find them listed according to it. (ie: Bernard of Clairvaux is listed under B)

A - B - C - E - F - G - H - J - K
L - M - N - O - P - R - S - T - W - Y

Brother Andrew / Anne van der Bijl (b. 1928)
If we do not actively seek God early in the morning,
it will be very unlikely that we meet him later in the day.

Falling in love
Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991)
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what gets you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Ruth Haley Barton (b. 1960)
Times of extended retreat give us a chance to come home to ourselves in God's presence and to bring the realities of our life to God in utter privacy. This is important for us and for those we serve.... On retreat we rest in God and wait on him to do what is needed. Eventually we return to the battle with fresh energy and keener insight. (Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership)

Ruth Haley Barton (b. 1960)
Moses' ability to be honest about his desolation brought him to the end of his self-reliance, which in turn opened up space for God to be at work. (Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership)

David G. Benner
Willpower may be sufficient for superficial behavioral changes, but only desire is capable of leading you toward deeper authenticity and integrity. No one drifts into such a life without intentionality, commitment, and a persistent desire to become more. Our desires keep us molten, they keep us moving, and they keep us awake--sometimes even in the middle of the night when we would prefer to be asleep! (Soulful Spirituality)

Simply loved
David G. Benner
What a different relationship begins to develop when you realize that God is head-over-heels in love with you. God is simply giddy about you. He just can't help loving you. And he loves you deeply, recklessly and extravagantly-just as you are.
(The Gift of Being Yourself)

Action or contemplation?
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Action and contemplation are very close companions;
they live together in one house on equal terms. Martha is Mary's sister.

Identity and worth
Kenneth Boa (b. 1949)
We need to review frequently the truth that our performance and our acceptance by other people has nothing to do with our dignity and value, since this is determined by God and not by the world. When we suffer rejection and indifference, the pain will be real, but it need not destroy us, since we have made the radical decision to look to God and his resources alone for our true and unchanging identity and worth. (Conformed to His Image)

God's call
Frederick Buechner (b. 1926)
"The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Wishful Thinking

Listen to your life
Frederick Buechner (b. 1926)
If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. Now and Then

Frederick Buechner (b. 1926)
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are but, more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
Man is placed above all creatures and not beneath them, and he cannot be satisfied or content except in something greater than himself. Greater than himself there is nothing but Myself, the Eternal God. Therefore it is the "I" alone that can satisfy us. (The Dialogue)

Darkness to light
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)
Pierce a hole in my darkness that I may see the face of God.

To be silent
Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)
I need to be silent for a while, worlds are forming in my heart.

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)
One must not always think so much about what one should do; but rather what one should be. Our works do not ennoble us, but we must ennoble our works.

Freedom from ups and downs
Richard J. Fairchild
Practically everyone has known the taste of Palm Sunday, the sweetness of success and popularity, and nearly all of us have tasted the bitterness of Good Friday, of failure and rejection. What saves us from an endless round of ups and downs, what frees us from the tyranny of events over which we have no control is our commitment to press forward in obedience to God. It is trust in God's love to bring about Easter morning, knowing that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God, and in sharing that knowledge and love with those who accompany us on the way.

Inordinate attachments
François Fénelon (1651-1715)
God tears us from that which we love wrongly, unreasonably or excessively, that which hinders his love.... We cry loudly in our despair and murmur against God.... But he lets us cry and saves us nevertheless... The things for which we weep would have caused us eternal woe.

Christ-focused honesty
François Fénelon (1651-1715)
Happy is the one who pays no attention to his own hasty judgments nor to the gossip of others!... You must learn to despise the selfishness of your own heart, and you must also be willing to be despised by others.... Learn to draw your strength and nourishment from Jesus, and from him alone. (quoted in Calvin Miller's A Hunger for the Holy)

Meditative Prayer
Richard Foster
Oh, let me tell you how much God desires our presence. How much God longs to hear from us. How much God yearns to communicate with us. At the very heart of God is the passionate disposition to be in loving fellowship with you ... with me. From the human side of this equation it is meditative prayer that ushers us into this divine-human fellowship. (Sanctuary of the Soul)

Richard Foster
When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God's work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given. (Celebration of Discipline)

Joseph Garlington (b.1939)
The Father is looking for worshipers. So if you are looking for God and you just can't seem to find him, then stop what you are doing and worship him-and he will come and find you." Worship in spirit / Worship in truth (meditations on John 4)

Broken heart art
Ken Gire (b.1950)
When the Father begins crafting character, a crushing must first take place. Not because he's a temperamental artist who's angry with his work, but because the raw materials for his art come from a broken heart. (The Work of His Hands)

The stronghold of prayer
Madam Guyon (1648-1717)
O my God, if the value of prayer were but known, the great advantage which accrues to the soul from conversing with Thee....It is a stronghold into which the enemy cannot enter. He may attack it, besiege it, make noise about its walls; but while we are faithful and hold our station, he cannot hurt us. (Madame Guyon)

Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)
Time always seems long to the child who is waiting--
for Christmas, for next summer, for becoming a grownup;
long also when he surrenders his whole soul to each moment of a happy day.

Response of the heart
Hal M. Helms
Hal M. Helms I call you by name and you are Mine. From all eternity I have loved you and to eternity I shall love you. Your mind cannot comprehend this, but your heart can respond to it.

Necessity of silence
Christopher Jamison (b. 1951)
If you want to be deeply connected with yourself and with God, you must spend time in silence. (The Big Silence)

Good works
John of the Cross (1542-1591)
A Christian should always remember that the value of his good works is not based on their number and excellence, but on the love of God which prompts him to do these things.

Love personified
Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237)
That law which is perfect because it takes away all imperfections is charity, and you will find it written with a strange beauty when you gaze at Jesus your Saviour stretched out like a sheet of parchment on the Cross, inscribed with wounds, illustrated in his own loving blood. Where else, I ask you, my dearest, is there a comparable book of love to read from?

Julian of Norwich (1342-ca.1416)
O God, by your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me.

The passion of possibility
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
If I were to wish for something, I would wish not for wealth or power but for the passion of possibility, for the eye, eternally young, eternally ardent, that sees possibility everywhere. (Either/Or)

The gift of discernment
Ernest Larkin (1922-2006)
Discernment in its fullness takes a practiced heart, fine-tuned to hear the word of God and the single-mindedness to follow that word in love. It is truly a gift from God, but not one dropped from the skies fully formed. It is a gift cultivated by a prayerful life and the search for self-knowledge. Discernment workshop

Way to the heart of God
Frank Laubach (1884–1970)
Somebody was telling me this week that nobody can make a violin speak the last depths of human longing until that soul has been made tender by some great anguish.
I do not say it is the only way to the heart of God, but I must witness that it has opened an inner shrine for me which I never entered before. (Letters from a Modern Mystic)

Parable of a sunset
Frank Laubach (1884–1970)
Open your soul and entertain the glory of God, and after a while that glory will be reflected in the world about you and in the very clouds above your head. (Letters from a Modern Mystic)

Brother Lawrence (ca.1614–1691)
I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He;
and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world. (Practicing the Presence of God)

Brother Lawrence (ca.1614–1691)
Good when He gives, supremely good;
Nor less when He denies:
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise. (Practicing the Presence of God)

C.S. Lewis (1898–1963)
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. C.S. Lewis (Weight of Glory)

Faith and moods
C.S. Lewis (1898–1963)
Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.

God's megaphone
C.S. Lewis (1898–1963)
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:
it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Lived experience
Elizabeth Liebert
When lived spiritual experience comes into the room, it makes the study of Christian spirituality immediate, transformative, compelling, self-implicating, and life-changing. (Quoted in Susan Phillips' Candlelight)

My thorn
George Matheson (1842-1906)
My God, I have never thanked thee for my thorn. I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory.

Thou divine Love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my cross, teach me the value of my thorn. (Inspired by 2 Corinthians 12:9)

The primacy of love
Gerald May (1940-2005)
Love is the 'why' of life, why we are functioning at all. I am convinced it is the fundamental energy of the human spirit, the fuel on which we run, the wellspring of our vitality. And grace, which is the flowing, creative activity of love itself, is what makes all goodness possible.

Love should come first. It should be the beginning of, and the reason for everything. (Living in Love)

Necessary intentionality
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
If you attempt to act and do for others or for the world without deepening your own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, you will not have anything to give others.

Purposeful conversing
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Ask me not where I live or what I like to eat....
Ask me what I am living for and what I think is keeping me from living fully for that. (Thoughts in Solitude)

Prayer of unknowing
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. Read the complete prayer

Calvin Miller (b. 1946)
To linger when we are complimented, to make too much of personal affirmations, to study our own cleverness--all of these can addict us to human praise and steal from us our desire to have more of Christ. (A Hunger for the Holy) Lenten reflection

God with us in despair
Calvin Miller (b. 1946)
The great glory of our faith is the name Immanuel, for God, in Christ, came to be with us. The glory of this truth is that he is not only with us in our times of jubilee, but he is with us in our times of despair. Jesus quoted David when the nails were in his hands: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" How wonderful that on the cross Jesus should quote the very words we all too often cry in our seasons of despair. (A Hunger for the Holy)

Christ's sufficiency
Calvin Miller (b. 1946)
Christ's sufficiency can be discovered only by those who confess their insufficiency. Driven before our confessed weakness, we at last arrive at the oracle of God's power and beg for his strength. (A Hunger for the Holy)

Wayne Muller
All life has emptiness at its core; it is the quiet hollow reed through which the wind of God blows and makes the music that is our life. Without emptiness, we are clogged and unable to give birth to music, love or kindness. (Sabbath)

Henri Nouwen (1932–1996)
The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. Understanding your wounds can only be healing when that understanding is put at the service of your heart. Daily reflections from Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love

Roots and Fruit
Henri Nouwen (1932–1996)
The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be. Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant. (The Inner Voice of Love)

The solid place
Henri Nouwen (1932–1996)
You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God's love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, 'God loves me, and God's love is enough'. You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure. (The Inner Voice of Love)

Creating space
Henri Nouwen (1932–1996)
In the spiritual life, the word 'discipline' means 'the effort to create some space in which God can act'. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you're not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned or counted on.

Diagnostic for the soul
John Ortberg
I asked a wise man, "How do you assess the well-being of your soul?" He immediately said, "I ask myself two questions": Am I growing more easily discouraged these days? Am I growing more easily irritated these days? At the core of a flourishing soul are the love of God and the peace of God. If peace is growing in me, I am less easily discouraged. If love is growing, I am less easily irritated. It was a brilliantly helpful diagnostic to assess the health of my soul. How would you answer those two questions? The Me I Want to Be

Border spaces
Christine Valters Paintner
Living on the edge means recognizing those places and experiences that do not offer me easy answers, those fierce edges of life where things are not as clear-cut as I hope for them to be. There is beauty in the border spaces, those places of ambiguity and mystery. Border Spaces poem

Parker Palmer (b. 1939)
Wholeness does not mean perfection; it means embracing brokenness as an intergral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness--mine, yours, ours--need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life.
(A Hidden Wholeness)

Deep people
Don Postema
Deep people know they need:
solitude-if they are going to find out who they are;
silence-if their words are to mean anything;
contemplation-if they are to see the world as it really is;
prayer-if they are going to be conscious of God,
and if they are to 'know God and enjoy him forever.' (Space for God)

Listen generously
Rachael Naomi Remen
Listening creates a holy silence. When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time. And when you listen deeply, you can know yourself in everyone.

Unanswered question
Rachael Naomi Remen
An unanswered question is a fine traveling companion.
It sharpens your eyes for the road. (Kitchen Table Wisdom)

Live your questions
Rainer Maria Rilke (1861-1937)
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.... Do not now seek answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.

Too weak to hold on
Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Well spoke that soldier who, asked what he would do if he became too weak to cling to Christ, answered, "Then I will pray him to cling to me."

Empathy's power
Joannah Sadler
Something powerful happens when people feel understood and supported in their pain. When empathy is experienced (not sympathy, please don’t confuse!), we feel that our pain is being shared and understood. It is then that we will begin to take steps in the direction of change or healing.

Step into the chasm
Margaret Silf (b. 1945)
Sometimes we reach a point at which we know that if we go any further, we will either lose our faith or break through to a new dimension of faith that goes beyond creedal believing to authentic personal trust. Like Indiana Jones, we come up to the edge of the abyss, and there is no bridge. Only when we step out with one foot into the yawning chasm of unknowing does the bridge appear.

The Word
Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705)
The Word of God remains the seed from which all that is good in us must grow.

Grateful joy
David Steindl-Rast (b.1926)
Joy is that kind of happiness that doesn't depend on what happens. Normally, we are happy when something good happens, and we are unhappy when something happens that we do not consider good. We pick and choose. But joy is our wholehearted response to whatever opportunity is given to us in any moment. It does not depend on what happens. (Music of Silence: A sacred journey through the hours of the day)

If we cultivate this grateful joy...we can be happy no matter what happens. We sometimes get this wrong. We think that people are grateful because they are happy. But is this true? Look closely, and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. (Music of Silence)

Growing trust
Chuck Swindoll (b. 1934)
God gives us opportunities to trust him, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.

Exchanged life
Hudson Taylor (1832–1905)
If God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance? In positions of great difficulty, much grace? In circumstances of great pressure and trials, much strength? No fear that His resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. (Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret)

Essence of Prayer
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Prayer is, in my view, nothing other than a talk with a friend. One to whom we gladly come alone to talk with, because we are sure that he loves us.

Fellowship with the King
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

If I had understood, as I do now, that in this little palace of my soul dwelt so great a King, I would not have left Him alone so often. (The Way of Perfection)

Mother Teresa (1910–1997)
We all need God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence. See the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.... We need silence to be able to have our souls touched.

Marjorie Thompson (b.1953)
When you give up your illusions of control or helplessness and accept your need for God, all that God has opens to you. (The Way of Blessedness)

Holy desire
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking. (The Pursuit of God)

The wisdom of journalling
Dawson Trotman (1906-1956)
Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the pen. Elizabeth on journalling

When I Survey
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
When I survey the wondrous cross
where the young prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
and pour contempt on all my pride
(the original wording of the first verse of Isaac Watt's great hymn)

Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB
There is nothing--no thing, no person, no experience, no thought, no joy or pain--that cannot be harvested and used for nourishment on our journey to God.

Prophetic voice
Philip Yancey (b. 1949)
"A prophet calls us to daily acts of obedience, regardless of personal cost, regardless of whether we feel successful or rewarded. And a prophet also reminds us that no failure,no suffering, no discouragement is final for the God who stands within the shadows, keeping watch over His own. A prophet who can convey both these messages with power just may change the world." (Said of Martin Luther King in Soul Survivor)

Role models
Philip Yancey (b. 1949)
The people of God are not merely to mark time, waiting for God to step in and set right all that is wrong. Rather, they are to model the new heaven and new earth, and by so doing awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass.

Trust in prayer
Philip Yancey (b. 1949)
Prayer allows a place for me to bring my doubts and complaints and subject them to the blinding light of a reality I cannot comprehend but can haltingly learn to trust. (Prayer)


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