This is a book mostly for Christians and those who have been formed by the words of the Bible as read by Christians. Author/poet/pray-er Gail Ramshaw, professor emerita of religion at La Salle University and a scholar of liturgical prayer, offers a beautiful and original long prayer-poem derived from a key moment in each of the biblical books.

Each of the books of the Hebrew scriptures, often called “Old Testament” by Christians, is included, and each of the books of the New Testament — from Matthew to Revelation — also has a prayer-poem. Some of the prayers are surprising, powerfully so; for example, to read the book of Joshua in the Hebrew scriptures today is to be face-to-face with God’s chosen people warring against other people. Ramshaw’s prayer for Joshua is titled “Interceding for the End of War,” and she prefaces the prayer with a paragraph that begins, “No, no, O God whom we worship: I believe in you, not in the Bible…”

There are also four prayers in the middle of this book derived from key moments in what some Christian bibles (primarily Catholics and Orthodox) call the apocryphal and deuterocanonical books. These are each familiar scenes of Christian wisdom teaching — from Tobit, from the Wisdom of Solomon, the Prayer of Azariah, and Susanna.

This last one is a prayer-poem that Ramshaw titles “Interceding for the Criminal Justice System,” which demonstrates how relevant she aims all of her prayers to be, as people will pray them today. It begins like this:

“O God, who is above, within, and around our attempts at rectitude in society,
I stand with Susanna to plead for an honorable criminal justice system.
That you will attend to our land with your merciful law, we pray:
that the innocent are not falsely accused;
that police do not resort to violence;
that the accused are treated fairly;
that pretrial arrangements are legal…”

And then it ends like this:

“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who was falsely accused, illegally tried, cruelly executed, yet vindicated by your Spirit, we pray. Amen.”

Some of the other prayers are titled and written to focus on praising God and focusing on God’s attributes, sometimes doing so in creative ways. For instance, the prayer from the prophetic Hebrew book of Hosea is titled “Praising God the Mother Bear” and begins, “O God, wild Bear…”

Others are titled and written to aim precisely at needs of today. For example, “Interceding for the Despoiled Earth” (Joel); “Interceding for an End to Prejudice” (Ephesians); and “Interceding for Discarded Women” (Ezra).

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