Prayer and film

Roger Ebert speaking about the upcoming brad Pitt and Sean Penn film, tree of life:

Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Sandra Godde
    May 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Interesting reflections from Roger Ebert … I find them a tad beautiful and in another sense, very sad. Beautiful because Ebert senses glimpses of transcendence / mystery in key moments in life’s journey, and is able to enjoy / revel in those moments. He labels them “prayer” perhaps because, in his experience these moments are the closest thing he has known regarding the divine. Indeed, he describes moments when one’s consciousness seems to be transported to a higher place – above the ordinary, the dull, and the mundane. And, in those moments we feel a glimpse of God and a oneness with creation. So in this way Ebert’s honesty and search for authenticity shows.

    In another sense though, his meagre hope is revealed and keeps him stuck with only small morsels of divine joy. He doesn’t believe or hope for a personal God – one who has intelligently created, purposed, and loved his creation – and for this reason there is no meaning to be gained from the bulk of his existence – it seems merely a drudgery to be endured until the end / death, punctuated with rare moments of joy and love. I find this part sad and deeply tragic because I know there is a higher dimension of life to be seized and won …. a kingdom to be found and lived in that takes every moment and infuses it with divine significance … a continual communion and feast with the Holy Spirit, that not only gives us hope and immortality but a higher form of life / consciousness while we are still living in our broken, decaying bodies, even now. Eternal life, no less. A life with Christ: a Saviour we all need and yearn for.

    Even so, the power of truly great art, and of profound films, is its ability to open us up to the transcendent moments in life that cannot be articulated in words alone but can only be shown – experienced – and given to us as opportunities of revelation for deeper truths about who we are as human beings and what brings meaning to our lives …..

  • Tanya Riches
    May 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    It’s probably inappropriate for me to love this quote…. but I do. Other pastors would want me to say that I think that he should pray TO Jesus, the one way toward God… but I wonder at God’s mystery constantly, and I can see that Jewish people have a revelation of God (not in His fullness) as YHWH… and I often pray silent, voiceless prayers. I can completely understand the thought of witnessing something that even becomes this prayer. So, I don’t know. I know that I could be criticised for saying it, but I love this quote. Great find, Shane. 🙂


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