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Amen: what prayer can mean in a world beyond belief

HarperCollins Publishers (Toronto),

2012, RRP $35.99

Reviewed by Peter Harvey, Rural Ministry Associate, Presbytery of Western Australia

FOR many people, prayer is an essential part of their daily lives, connecting them with God, a force, or the universe and bringing them, among other things, assistance and protection.

Prayer makes their lives more meaningful, and their world make more sense.

And as a result of their introspection, they live fuller, deeper lives and offer wider service to others.

Whether it be proclaiming "Allahu akbar", singing "Shema Yisrael", or reciting "Our Father, who art in heaven", prayer is central to the three major monotheistic religions, and to many others besides.

In Amen, Gretta Vosper, a United[KI1] Church of Canada minister and author of the controversial bestseller With or Without God, offers us her deeply felt examination of worship beyond conventional prayer, a new tradition built on love and respect rather than on the rituals of ancient beliefs.

She asks us to examine the diverse positions on prayer in the light of the harsh realities of unanswered prayer, the secular critique of supernatural intervention and the need for a deep sense of ownership for the suffering in the world.

With characteristic honesty, she calls us to submit the tradition of prayer to the test of integrity. Can we draw from it useful principles for addressing human and global needs? Or is it safe – and maybe even more effective – to get up from our knees and live out the answers we seek?

Gretta Vosper's critique of religion and traditional prayer is refreshing and insightful. Many people might find it controversial, but progressive ideas are always contentious to some.

If you're not sure what you believe, this book can give you something worth considering. And I guarantee you won't be able to take your mind off the topic for days.