Josh Larsen has been writing for a significant period of time. Whether on his own site or as part of the team at Think Christian (as writer and editor) his body of work is well known and well respected across a wide audience. His first book project Movies are Prayers is a deep dive not just into his extensive knowledge of film but also the practice of prayer. Using his own faith as the lens to write through Larsen takes the reader on a journey through nine different types of prayer that are part of the Christian tradition but also hold a place within the broader scope of religion.
Examining prayer types such as obedience, lament, joy, contemplation we are taken on a journey that is simultaneously wonderfully cinematic and theologically rich. Larsen has clearly not only spent time revisiting some much loved moments from film but also giving deep consideration to what prayer is and how this is reflected for all practitioners.
Equally impressive within the book is the spread of movies that have been used to highlight each form of prayer. Chapters move effortlessly from family friendly examples to more adult films in order to emphasise the form of prayer being discussed. One example of this comes when considering prayers of confession in which Larsen considers both Toy Story and The Act of Killing to have their place. The value of any film referenced within the book lies in its relevance to the prayer type rather than its family friendly nature or its controversy (if any exists). Each cinematic reference is used to highlight to the reader that any film you watch can potentially hold some value for further discussion. All genres are considered within the book and I found that to be both refreshing and insightful.
Chapters discussing prayers of yearning and likewise prayers of contemplation were particular highlights for me as both resonated deeply and could identify feelings reflecting my own faith journey within them.
Movies are Prayers is a great example of a book that holds a dual purpose. Not only did I find films I want to revisit and some new films to explore within it's pages. What I also discovered was a book that provided me with insights and reflections on prayer that were insightful and helpful for my own journey. I have long admired the writing of Josh Larsen, his reviews and style have been something of an example to me of how to express personal faith and love of film. His reflections on prayer have also made me realise he's got a great handle on theology too.