In this little book, Fr. Ermatinger has drawn from all the works of St. Augustine to present a complete picture of prayer as described and explained by the saint. Including chapters on The Nature of Prayer, Prayer and Desire, Types of Prayers, What to Ask For and What Not to Ask For (among others), nearly every question you may have on prayer appears somewhere in the book. The questions, of course, are written and organized by the editor.
At first I sometimes found it difficult to determine when St. Augustine's was quoted and when the editor was drawing on multiple sources to explain the saint's position or answer. Perhaps I just wasn't paying enough attention, though, because that seemed to become easier as I continued through the book.
The introduction cautions the reader that this is not a book to be read in one sitting, and I found that to be quite true. It's worth-while to read a few questions, or even just one at a time, and then give some thought to the answer.
As the wife of a theologian, I should perhaps be embarrassed to admit I have never read anything by St. Augustine. I have, of course, read some basic theology books recommended by my husband, but I have found it's often easier to just ask Kansas Dad to explain something to me (not that it's better, just easier). There were certainly times I found myself reading the same paragraphs over a few times to better understand, but it was wonderful to read some of St. Augustine's own insights into prayer, and to learn a bit from the editor about Augustine's own prayer life.
My favorite chapters were those on what to pray for and what not to pray for. I have often struggled with these questions myself. St. Augustine found everything we should pray for in the prayer taught by Jesus himself, the Our Father. It was amazing how clear it seemed when I read through the answers.
I think this book would be a great start for someone seeking to learn more about the purpose of prayer, how to pray and what our goal should be when praying. (Later on, you can read Origen's book On Prayer, which I set aside when I realized I simply didn't have the ability to concentrate enough on it.)
At the end of it all, the greatest effect of prayer is the love and desire it enkindles and preserves. "And his mercy has taken everything into account. All that bears fruit, he says, should remain; that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Similarly, let love remain; for he himself is our gain. And this love remains for the moment as loving desire, an enjoyment not yet completely fulfilled."
This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. I have not received any payment for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.