Prayer Works! is the title of Matt Leonard’s latest book and should be the theme chant for our own lives. If your prayer life needs some work and you don’t know where to begin this is the book for you. Even if you think you have a solid prayer life you could use some pointers and Matt provides those here.
There are many reasons for having a strong prayer life. First and foremost is establishing a personal relationship with your heavenly Father. We can either care enough to have such a relationship or we can write it off as not necessary. As Matt states: “So life essentially boils down to a journey to God. We’re going to meet him one way or the other. It’s either going to be a good meeting where he welcomes us into his presence, or it’ll be a bad meeting where we are cast out because we rejected him by the way we lived our lives.” The sure fire way to establish that relationship is prayer. Matt continues on the early part of the book establishing this point.
We also learn the three stages of prayer. These are stage 1: The Purgative Way, stage 2: The Illuminative Way, and stage 3: The Unitive Way. Matt explains the Purgative Way is the cleansing part that occurs at baptism or confession. It is a stage that continues in the early stages of our spiritual life. Basically you are cleansing your “spiritual diet” from the bad food and replace it with the good. In the Illuminative Way you begin loving God more and things less. You look differently at that new car or tickets to see your favorite singer. God takes priority and the material things of this world take a back seat….if any seat at all. In the final stage, The Unitive Way, we attain the relationship with God we have strived for. This is the experience of many saint. From the book again:”The life that follows in this final stage of spiritual development is nothing short of spiritual bliss. We’ve found the peace that passes all understanding, the unspeakable joy of encountering God. We revel in his love for us as his children, secure in the knowledge that no matter what happens all is well. We’ve moved into a new state of being, with which nothing else but heaven itself can compete. This is what it’s all about. This is what we’re striving for. And prayer is the key that unlocks the door to this new life.”
Prayer is something many avoid and it’s unfortunate. Matt Leonard tells us why it is necessary and how to achieve it. There are a myriad of prayer options available. The book describes a few of them in detail. Lectio Divina is the practice of praying Scripture. The four basics steps of this are Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation. You might try praying the Psalms, the same Psalms that Christ himself prayed. The Liturgy of the Hours is yet another great resource for prayer. These are also known as the prayers of the Church as all bishops, priests as well as permanent and transitional deacons are required to pray them at the designated times of morning, daytime, evening and night. Another source of prayer is spiritual reading. Good spiritual material is always a good kick starter for prayer and fills our time with quality material in lieu of the many secular distractions around us.
Matt Leonard has providing an outstanding resource on prayer. Its an easy read sprinkled with some humor only Matt can provide. His writing style makes the material much more enjoyable and brings it to the typical laypersons level. If you are in need of a jump start to your prayer life and do not know where to begin let this book be your guide….you can’t go wrong. I will take one more excerpt from the book to close this review. I found this to be a very powerful paragraph that I have re-read several times.
“Meditation is supposed to lead to interior action that affects your exterior behavior. That’s the goal. Once your heart is moved toward God and the real conversation has begun, it’s time to stop reading or reflecting. The method has done it’s job. Too often people get hung up on their method and lose the forest for the trees. We have to be ready to modify or even stop a particular method if it is no longer helping us talk with God. on guard against developing a routine and plowing through it no matter what. Prayer isn’t about getting through your checklist of litanies and devotions. The goal is relationship with the person of Christ. And just as any personal relationship, things change.” __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________