by Delia Ruane
I found this book by Richard Leonard, a Jesuit priest, the director
of the Australian Catholic Film Office, consultant to the Australian
Bishop’s Media Committee, film critic and international lecturer,
interesting, practical and reassuring.
This book is not so much a primer about how to pray but more
about why we pray and what it does for us, for God, and for our world.
He begins by reiterating a point made in his previous bestseller,
Where the Hell is God?, that we often question God when our heartfelt prayers seem to go unanswered.
Are we seeking to manipulate or change God through our prayer?
Is God just “trying to get us to jump through hoops to get our prayer heard and answered”?
Leonard maintains that our prayers don’t change an unchanging, steadfast God. Rather,prayer changes us, and through us changes the
Relationship is a recurring theme throughout the book. Prayer is
about relationship with God — a way to encounter the presence of the
living God. It is centred on a person, Jesus, and through him we are invited into a loving and saving relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit that has consequences for how we live in this world and the next.
Leonard gives sound advice about how not to pray, and suggests one absolute rule to discern the effectiveness of our prayer: “Is
what I am doing deepening my relationship with God, my neighbour and
myself? This, he maintains, is what makes prayer so dangerous.
Chapters explore images and names for God, and their implication
for our prayer; Christian prayer “schools” from throughout the
ages (desert spirituality, Benedictine, Franciscan, Carmelite, Dominican, Ignatian); the centrality of Jesus Christ; public
prayer; the place of Mary in relation to prayer, Tradition,
Vatican council; and prayer for mission.
A final section offers a comprehensive selection of contemporary films that explore themes to aid us in the spiritual life.
This book is as easy to read as it is enlightening, inspiring the reader to be open to the possibility of being changed through engaging in an open and trusting relationship with the Living
God and, through this, to be changed and to become an agent for
change in the world. I highly recommend it for everyone intent on developing their relationship with God through prayer.
Delia Ruane is the coordinator for the Seasons for Growth ministry support programme in Auckland diocese and presents the Coping with Grief Certificate Ministry course.