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An African Prayer Book    by Desmond Tutu order for
African Prayer Book
by Desmond Tutu
Order:  USA  Can
Image, 2006 (1995)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

I am always humbled to have-in-hand a book by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu. In his Introduction, the Archbishop tells us, 'Adam was having the time of his life in the Garden of Eden ... It is not good to be alone', God said. And from there He gave Adam his choice of mate, Eve. One never knows just where Desmond Tutu will take the reader, and he writes, 'This beautiful story tells a fundamental truth about us - that we are made to live in a delicate network of interdependence with one another, with God and with the rest of God's creation.' He adds an African idiom, 'A person is a person through other persons.' Tutu writes this as 'true of nations', touching each other's needs.

The Archbishop divides this collection of prayers into four sections of ACTS, i.e. Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. In Adoration we find 'How Great Thou Art' by Saint Augustine (the Western Christianity theologian, noted for his autobiographical masterpiece, Confessions): 'Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised. Great is thy power and they wisdom is infinite ... Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first - to call on thee or to praise thee? ... Or is it better that we call on thee that we may know thee?' I found 'The Great Amen' from Zulu, South Africa beautifully simple, with emotion.

Contrition begins with the Archbishop's words about a sinner going into the light, 'When you have sat for a long time in a darkened room, it is agony to go outside into the unbearable glare of the blazing sun.' Offerings of prayer include 'A Balm in Gilead', an African-American Spiritual; and from Dinka, Sudan, 'God Has Turned His Back On Us' - 'the words of men have made him angry. / And yet he will turn round again. ... We are the children of our Maker / and are not afraid that he will kill us.' In Thanksgiving, we have 'Count your blessings ...' with a short prayer from Samburu, Kenya, 'Thank You Very Much!' - 'my God, thank you. / Give me food today, / food for my sustenance every day.'

In Supplication, we read, 'The Rainbow Of Thy Peace' by French poet and 1960s president of Senegal, West Africa, Leopold Sedar Senghor: 'O bless this people, Lord, who seek their own face / under the mask and can hardly recognize it ... O bless this people that breaks its bond ... Who sweat blood and sufferings ... The earth in a girdle of brotherly hands, / Beneath the rainbow of thy peace.' From An African Call For Life is written 'A Woman's Answer' - 'Yes, Jesus, I accept that you are the Life of the world, but we women are oppressed by men. They ask, 'Can a woman also be called to the ordained ministry of the Church?' Oh, Jesus, why do you favor men, your church is male-dominated ... Jesus, the Life of the world, make life better for us, women.'

The intent in his prayer book is to exemplify spirituality through the medium of poems, songs, prayers, and more. Archbishop Tutu graciously places on our plates of faith offerings that are broad, with God loving all, 'asking nothing in return except the gift of loving hearts.'

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