It’s hard to write a review about this book. Opening to God: A Guide to Prayer is a short book of only 126 pages, so I practically want to quote every bit of it! Here are just a few things I loved and learned from it. I highly recommend it for anyone–it is written by a spiritual director of many years and many souls (both laity and religious in the U.S. and Philippines and beyond). I already mentioned Opening to God in this post about prayer, but I wanted to share a little more about it (especially as I’ve just reread it).
1. Fr. Green defines prayer as “an opening of the heart and mind to God.” Each word of this phrase has a special meaning–and most importantly, he wants us to realize and remember that we cannot pray without God first coming to us. He says it better than me, but basically, we don’t pray under our own power, the first thing to realize in prayer is that we open to God, and He comes to us and touches us in an encounter.
2. This book was written not long after Vatican II, and Fr. Green has an interesting perspective, able to see the good in prayer practices both pre- and post-Vatican II. Just as with anything in the Catholic Church, there is always a balance between extremes, and Fr. Green helps us to see that in regards to ways of prayer.
3. Prayer is “irrelevant”–one chapter is about the irrelevance of prayer, while the following chapter is about it’s extreme relevance. Fr. Green enjoys the paradox in this, but he is right. Prayer is not “relevant,” in the way we look for relevance in our modern world. Is it useful? Does it help us get ahead? Do we get what we want out of it? Well, no. Not as the world sees it. His image in this chapter is of a married couple, if you asked your spouse “how is our love relevant?” It would be a puzzling question–love, relevant? No! It is love because you love one another. So it is with prayer. We’re not praying to get something out of it, we’re praying because our relationship with God is one of love. And that is why prayer is relevant–our relationship with God becomes the foundation of all our life.
4. From praying the rosary, the office, to reading the Scriptures, meditating, contemplating, and taking a walk–Opening to God
provides examples, practical advice, and goals to achieve. I’ll be rereading this book again to continue to learn more.
5. Finally, something that will stay with me the most (and indeed gives an image to something I’ve always striven for), is Fr. Green’s example of a radio or tv. If we want to listen to the radio, we must first make sure our surroundings are quiet, then we must turn it on, turn up the volume, and make sure we are tuned to the right station–only then do we receive the signal being sent. That’s how we pray! First, learn to quiet our hearts, open our heart and mind, clear the distractions, and to tune to hear God’s still, quiet voice–we can only make the environment conducive to prayer, He is the one who makes prayer happen, just as the radio station is broadcasting, we don’t make the sounds happen!
6. Our goal in prayer? Learn to open to God.
This brings me back to the Bible verse I discovered when I was around 11 or 12:
Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.