Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Knowing how to ask

My friend Anthony DeStefano, author of A Travel Guide to Heaven, just released his second book, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To. Although I'm biased, I'm impressed with how Anthony boils down serious, often intense Christian theology with such grace and directness, without losing any meaning or truth along the way.

It's hard for me to describe what Anthony's done with Ten Prayers; the nearest parallel would be the more plainspoken passages in C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity or Fulton J. Sheen's writings. Speaking like a friend with a gift for spiritual direction, he walks the reader through the steps of aligning one's will to God's.

Make no mistake, despite the title, this is no "name it and claim it" book. As with Travel Guide, Anthony's primary interest is for his readers to get to heaven — and that means, as C.S. Lewis intimated in The Great Divorce, that they should receive the grace enabling them to live out what it is like to be in heaven, starting now.

Part of being in heaven is receiving what one wants and needs from God — but to do that in this life, one has to not only ask, but also conform one's will to God's so that one may receive all the blessings God can give. The book's ten prayers are all geared towards enabling the reader to accomplish those goals.

As with Travel Guide, Anthony's writing is so direct that his theology can appear deceptively simple. Read Ten Prayers all the way through, though, and you may find yourself thinking a few hours later, "Wait a minute — didn't he solve the problem of evil?"

At a dinner party last night, I handed a copy of Ten Prayers to the author of a Christian theological work and asked him to read a passage at random. He wasn't familiar with Anthony's writings. Looking at Ten Prayers' cover, he didn't expect anything profound.

It was interesting to watch his expression change as he read aloud the passage upon which his finger landed: "Most people don't realize it, but courage isn't needed only to confront danger — it's much, much bigger than that: Courage is the cornerstone and linchpin of the entire moral order."

The dinner guest paused a moment. "That'll give me something to think about," he said.

Me too.

More thoughts on Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To tomorrow.