Praying with Confidence: Aquinas on the Lord's Prayer

Murray, Paul OP
Continuum (2010)
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"But Aquinas now--he was a little too subtle, wasn't he?" Squire Brook half-inquired, half-asserted in a conversation with Casaubon in George Eliot's Middlemarch and, indeed, for some five hundred years Aquinas has had to bear a terrible reputation among those for whom education consists in reading commentary rather than text; for, read patiently and attentively, Aquinas is not such a difficult author and on some subjects his lucidity is striking. Let me put it this way, I would take Aquinas for clarity over either of the two great 20th Century Karl’s, Barth and Rahner.

On prayer in general and on the Lord's Prayer in particular, Aquinas is particularly good and, as Paul Murray remarks, it is sad that Aquinas never got round to writing a single, dedicated work on our most important of prayers and so Murray has assembled this nice, though admittedly rather dry, little book from eight major Thomist sources.

I'm sure that Paul Murray loved writing this book (he is shortly to publish a follow-up on Aquinas and prayer) but, other than that, I'm not really sure who or what it's for. If you're writing an essay on Aquinas on the Lord's Prayer it's fine but you would be accused of plagiarism; and it's nice to explore odd corners of the Doctor's oeuvre. What I brought away from it was a strong reminder of something I have forgotten since my long days and nights with Thomas and that is that the central point of prayer - pace thousands of authors since - is to ask for God's help out of dire necessity. Prayer has been made for too difficult and it always will be unless we remember that the starting point is petition. Not a very macho view of prayer but attempts to make the activity much more difficult than it is has, sadly, frightened many people who think they don't know how to pray.

Faced with such a difficulty, or with a thirst to better understand the Our Father, I would recommend starting with Saint Theresa of Avila or Saint John of the Cross; and if you want a starting point for prayer in general you can't do better than Julian of Norwich which immediately makes the point that the best guides to prayer are usually mystics, Saint Thomas being a glaring exception, although his contemporaries attest that he was a man of prayer.

A book for the specialist; but a few of us will be very grateful.