In Movies Are Prayers, Josh Larsen of Filmspotting and Think Christian has created a guide to transform the way you see film. He begins by laying out exactly what he means by prayer. In this context, a “prayer” is something like an existential yearning, though Larsen’s explanation is a bit more complex and nuanced. From that point, he proceeds to make a strong case that films can be seen as prayers, and goes through various types of prayer, giving explanations and examples for each.
Remarkably, I noticed a difference in my critical lens almost immediately after reading chapter one of this book. I began thinking of the recent films I’ve seen and finding those existential moments. By fitting these moments into the categories Larsen lays out in the book, I can easily consider times when I have felt similar things in my life, and even lifted prayers about these things to God. I can also reflect on how God views the situations in films and have clarity on how he may view situations in my life. All of this can successfully make the process of reacting to a film one that is spiritual and helpful, rather than simply entertaining. For me, this has made my responses to film have a more lasting impression, in contrast than the fleeting thoughts I have often had that fade a few weeks after the credits have rolled.
Whether you accept its “prayer” premise or not, this book can guide your critical thinking about the spiritual elements of film. I heartily recommend this book to any film watcher, Christian or otherwise, who has ever felt something like a divine experience while watching a movie (I suspect that’s almost everyone). Reading Movies are Prayers lends clarity to why you might have felt this way, and helps direct these feelings for future film watching; taking in this book is a rich experience that leads to rich experiences.