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Why Pray?

Among the many books on prayer, this little one is a gem. It could be given to a young confirmation candidate or a religious Sister on her diamond jubilee of profession, and each would gain from it. That is largely because of the profound simplicity of Robert Llewelyn’s writing on prayer. But it is also because, as he comments in one of his talks in this book, that those who are “seasoned warriors rather than raw recruits” in the practice of prayer are more likely to consider themselves beginners.

Anyone who knew Fr Robert realised that he walked closely with God, but he never gave the impression that he was anything but a novice. This collection of previously unpublished writings and addresses begins with a reflection on prayer as waiting. Fr Robert waited on God, and invited others into his waiting room. I knew him only in the last decade of his life, but recall that he would ensure that we had at least 20 minutes of silent waiting on God together when I visited — the best gift that he could make to a bishop, he said.

In making prayer attractive, Fr Robert made God attractive, too. There is a deep instinct in human beings to pray, even when we do not know to whom we offer prayer. This volume is a reminder that prayer does not always begin as a response to a God in whom we have already decided to believe, but is better understood as a journey into being enfolded in divine love.

One of the remarkable features of Fr Robert’s funeral and memorial service was that there were so many young people present when a 98-year-old was laid to rest. He continued to make young friends well into his tenth decade because they sensed, through him, what it was to be enfolded in love. This book illustrates why. I cannot think of anyone who would not profit from it.

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