LIVING THE LORD’S PRAYER: The Way of the Disciple
Albert Haase, OFM
Christian Living/Spiritual Growth
The Book of Common Prayer includes a communal prayer that asks God for grace to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Scriptures --- actions I recommend for those who pick up this highly profitable book. Its 11 chapters are organized and titled by the familiar phrases of the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”). But as the subtitle, “The Way of the Disciple,” suggests, the text is about so much more than prayer, except in the sense that prayer permeates all of a mature Christian’s life. In his conclusion, Albert Haase quotes the second-century church father Tertullian, who said that the Lord’s Prayer is “an abridgement of the entire Gospel.”
I didn’t immediately warm up to Haase’s prose, and I didn’t agree with every nuance, but soon enough his style and message really engaged my spirit. His personal voice becomes stronger, and you get glimpses of his own personal, professional and spiritual journey --- as a boy whose father committed suicide, as a parish priest, as a missionary to the Far East, as a retreat director. You feel immersed in God’s fatherly love and challenged to know God more intimately.
Though Haase is a Franciscan (he’s called Father Albert, as the French would pronounce it, “Al-bear”), he’s writing in a way that is generally accessible to open-minded Protestants. He draws from a comprehensive library of Christian writings, from the early church fathers to the contemporary Mother Teresa. He often refers to the life and writings of St. Francis and his train of followers but also incorporates other modes of spirituality, including Ignatian, Orthodox and Protestant.
LIVING THE LORD’S PRAYER is interesting in that it serves as an introduction to a Christian’s life in relation to God and neighbor. But it’s so much more than a primer. Similarly the book is theological at the same time that it is practical. A section subtitled “Faith-Based Decision Making” walks through a diagram of “three movements of discernment”: awareness, assessment and action. “The final act of any discernment process --- and what makes it precisely a faith-based decision --- is our own choice and action made in light of the kingdom of God and our baptismal commitment.” The chapter (ultimately discussing “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”) then turns to an agenda for a “Quarterly Review of Life,” in which “Four times a year, two spiritual friends take a day off together” to assess their Christian walk. Later chapters deal, of course, with forgiveness --- God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. Then Haase turns to resisting temptation or “refusing to dance with the devil.” Protestants may be puzzled that he doesn’t wrap things up with “For thine is the kingdom and the power…” but Catholics generally recite the short form, which doesn’t include the final upswing.
In his foreword, theology professor and author Gerald Sittser notes that “Father Albert challenges us to live what we pray.” And he asks the book’s readers to “relish it, ponder it, pray it and live it.” Maybe that’s a Presbyterian version of “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.”
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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