A Prayer from Les Mis

I expected to sing along to myself and shed a tear or two. I didn’t expect such a poignant reminder of prayer.

Posted in , Jan 1, 2013

Prayer blogger Rick Hamlin

We were part of the post-Christmas horde that went off to the multiplex to see a movie. The first choice for the family was the musical Les Misérables, which had been a favorite when the boys were young. They used to re-create the barricades of revolutionary Paris on our living room sofa, waving their toy muskets and dying very dramatically—if they didn’t knock over a vase or picture frame.

I expected to sing along to myself and shed a tear or two. I didn’t expect such a poignant reminder of prayer. The film, even more than the stage play, makes the Christian connections in this saga of a man, Jean Valjean, who is redeemed by love. A hardened criminal, released after 19 years for the crime of stealing bread, is forgiven by a priest when he is discovered stealing silver from the church. He spends the rest of his life passing on that gift of forgiveness and love.

He frequently addresses God in the film, but one song in particular is a prayer from start to finish, and Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean sings it as one long, aching plea. “God above, hear my prayer/In my need you have always been there...” He is praying for the young Marius, his daughter’s boyfriend, praying that God will spare the young man’s life in the upcoming battle at the barricades. Again and again, in falsetto, he urges, “Bring him home, bring him home.”

Marius does get wounded and survives, thanks to Jean Valjean, who rescues him and carries him through the sewers of Paris. In a way, Jean Valjean becomes an answer to his own prayer, a co-laborer with God, his love like a parent’s love for a child. He more than anyone, “brings him home.”

It had never struck me before, but it felt so true, that the prayers we say are often the prayers we participate in. Not that we plan it that way, or that we expect it to happen that way, but in our urging God to hear our needs, we often find the strength and wherewithal to become both answer and plea.

Be sure to check out our interview with Hugh Jackman, in which he talks about the themes of the movie.

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