Book review: ‘God Listens: Personal Stories of Answered Prayers’
“God Listens: Personal Stories of Answered Prayers.” By Lorene Hanley Duquin. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2017. 182 pages. Paperback: $12.95; Kindle: $9.99; Nook: $10.99.
While the main title of Lorene Hanley Duquin’s new book, “God Listens,” is enough to inspire hope in anyone in need of it, it is the subtitle that is of particular comfort. That’s because this is not just another theological or inspirational book about how close God is to us; it is instead vibrantly alive with “Personal Stories of Answered Prayers.” Duquin’s book is powerful simply because it is a collection of what are called “witness talks,” concrete accounts of how God has intervened in the lives of ordinary people who turn to Him in their need.
Ironically, the book itself started out as an answer to a prayer. When the author found herself facing a long recovery after a serious fall and major surgery, her initial thought was that this would be an ideal time to “catch…up on reading and watch…movies.” However, her editor at Our Sunday Visitor had another idea. “(When) one of the acquisition editors….called…he asked if I would do a book of stories about how God answers people’s prayers,” Duquin recalled. “He pointed out that there are many books about answered prayer, but none of them focused on Catholic prayer. He insisted that there was a need for this kind of book.”
Despite his urging, she was still skeptical about the project. “One of my biggest concerns was where I would find stories,” she continued. “Catholics tend to be private when it comes to their relationship with God. Most Catholics are not known for their willingness to share faith stories.” However, she decided to leave the final decision up to God. “I started praying, ‘Lord, is this what you want me to do?’” she said. “I was secretly hoping the answer would be ‘No!’”
A few emails sent out to friends and associates rapidly multiplied and soon produced her answer; the author found herself literally deluged with people eager to share their stories of God’s very personal reply to their prayers. “God listened!” Duquin concluded. “God answered my prayer!” And the answer was a resounding “Yes!”
The resulting stories contained in the book are as varied as the people who submitted them. Some speak of miracles granted, others about the assistance received from Mary and the saints. Money problems are resolved, hearts are changed, and health — both physical and spiritual — is restored. The dying are comforted, and friends and family are brought back to the faith. And, in a very important chapter, people express their gratitude for the prayers that God, in His infinite wisdom, did not answer, or at least did not answer in the way the petitioner originally hoped.
All are told in the first person, edited only for length. And they are unquestionably Catholic; throughout, Duquin intersperses her contributor’s narratives with short explanations of prayer in general and descriptions of specific forms of Catholic prayer in particular. She also includes short biographies of saints when they are relevant to the story being told.
“God answers prayers,” Duquin assures us. “Sometimes, he gives us exactly what we want — but not always. There are also times when God surprises us by leading us down paths we never even considered.”
In the end, the book is more than simply a collection of inspirational stories; it is as rich as the tapestry of Catholic prayer itself.
“It is my hope the stories in this book have been an inspiration for you,” Duquin concludes. “They have certainly been an inspiration for me. I thank God for all of the wonderful people who shared their prayer experiences. And I pray that all of your prayers will be answered in ways that will bring you joy in accordance with God’s love and mercy.”
Lorene Hanley Duquin is a Catholic author and lecturer, working in parishes and on a diocesan level. She has conducted webinars and workshops on a variety of evangelization and stewardship topics in parishes and at national and diocesan conferences in the United States and Canada. Her articles have appeared in a variety of secular and Catholic publications.
She lives in Williamsville, New York, with her husband, Richard. They have four adult children and eight grandchildren