It’s Not About You
A Fresh Perspective on Prayer
Is prayer a mighty spiritual weapon or a waste of time? Is it something to be engaged in fiercely, as if wielding a weapon in the midst of a spiritual battle, or is it a just a personal practice to achieve a calmer, more focused and disciplined life? Does prayer really change anything?
Those questions and so many more are discussed inside the pages of this book. The book does not simply offer one writer’s perspective on the topic of prayer. Instead, it delves deep into scripture to see how prayer is presented in God’s word.
The book offers a thorough study of prayer from a Biblical perspective. Moving from Genesis to Revelation, this book looks at instances of prayer as recorded in the Bible, exploring the who, what, where, when, how, and why.
The book is a stand-alone read about prayer from a Biblical perspective. It is expository in nature and can be used for personal enjoyment and growth or in a group Bible study. We have had some groups use only the book for their Bible study and other groups use the book and study guide.
The study guide directs the reader in her reading of the book. It too can be used individually or in a group. It is a guided reading of the book with questions to ponder and space to journal for personal growth.
Who might benefit?
Really, anyone who can read and wants to know more about what the Bible says regarding prayer will benefit. The book is full of scripture and is a deep study, so it works better for adults. We have had several women’s groups use them in group studies and even one men’s Bible study group.
What prompted you to write this book?
Some years ago, someone close to me and very dear to me suffered greatly after a trauma in her life. I struggled alongside of her as I watched her struggle. And I prayed. How I prayed! As I did, I realized I wanted to know more about prayer because I wanted to be effective in my prayers, so I embarked on a personal study of prayer. I read the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation, journaling as I did. This took on a life of its own as I learned more and more about prayer. At the end of four years, I had this book written. It took a few more years before I found a publisher.
Shortly after it was published by Pix-N-Pens, a small traditional press, my lifelong friend, Shirley Crowder bought one to use in a women’s Bible study she led. She created a study guide for her own use and sent it to me for my approval. I loved it and forwarded it on to my publisher who then offered Shirley a publishing contract for the study guide too.
~ Sample ~
Chapter 1: Why Pray?
Some years ago, my local newspaper printed an article about prayer. It contained interviews with several ministers including clergy and leaders from a number of different religious groups: a Protestant pastor, a Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Muslim Imam. This may sound like a set up for a joke but it wasn’t. It was a serious article about the role of prayer in today’s world. These religious leaders held an open discussion about their beliefs regarding the practice and effectiveness of prayer. They all agreed that prayer was a wonderful personal exercise and discipline but, unfortunately, it had no real power. Though it was not believed to impact circumstances, prayer was still viewed by this group as an activity that offered emotional benefits for the one praying, such as comfort and consolation. Their conclusion, drawn from many years of ministry, was that though soothing, prayer was powerless. These religious leaders nonetheless strongly endorsed prayer for its mental health benefits.
A picture of hands folded next to a flickering candle accompanied the article. It appeared so sweet, so cozy, so soothing, but according to the article, so utterly useless. If their conclusion is correct, praying people would benefit as much from any other self-comforting technique. One may as well soak in a warm tub or drink hot tea as to pray.
I cannot make my fears disappear that easily. A cup of hot tea doesn’t do it for me—so I pray. And praying does not always make me feel better. At times prayer is agonizing because it increases my awareness of the pain or ugliness of a situation.
Why do I pray then? I pray because I am convinced prayer really does have the power to impact the situation that concerns me. Prayer plays an important role in God’s plan for bringing about His purposes on earth. Does God need my prayers? No, of course not! God does not need anything, but because He loves me, He allows you and me to participate in His work.
My personal quest for understanding
As a child, I learned to pray as part of a daily routine. These were the simple “God bless” types of prayers. But as life took its inevitable twists and turns, some of which have been extremely difficult, I found myself longing for a better understanding of prayer. I believed in the power of prayer but I wanted to know how to really do it. I looked deeper into the Scripture seeking to know what the Bible said about prayer. I wished to pray more effectively. I have learned much and now have some understanding as to why prayer might be a powerless tool in the hands of some people, like the ministers in my newspaper article believed. On the other hand, I have also learned that prayer is a mighty weapon in the hands of a believer who understands and uses it correctly.
The Bible passage that first prompted me to think about prayer is found in 1 Kings 16-18. In this passage, Elijah prays for rain after the miracle on Mount Carmel. Let me set the stage by reviewing the story.
Ahab, a wicked man, had become king over Israel. He did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all who had come before him. Because of this, God caused a terrible drought in the land. Then, in 1 Kings 18:19-44, Elijah tells Ahab to gather all of Israel along with the prophets of Baal and of Asherah, and to meet him on Mount Carmel. Perhaps you remember the miracle God did there. All 850 false prophets failed in their attempt to call fire from heaven to burn the sacrifice they had made. For an entire day, they were unable to get their god’s attention despite shouting, gesturing, and even cutting themselves. Then, it was Elijah’s turn. He soaked his sacrifice with water before he even began to ask God to send fire. Since it was a time of severe drought, water was scarce and precious. Isn’t it interesting that Elijah poured out what was precious, before God showed His great miraculous power? Finally, Elijah prayed for God to send down fire from heaven, and God did—instantly! God’s fire consumed everything, even the stones, dust, and water.
As amazing as this prayer and its resulting miracle are, it is Elijah’s next prayer, the prayer for rain, which fascinates me more. After the miracle of fire but before he prayed for the rain, Elijah told King Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” Apparently, Elijah believed the rain would come before he even prayed for it. But he prayed nonetheless. He crouched down, put his face between his knees, and prayed. We know he was praying, and not just bending down, from James 5:18.
After a time, he sent his servant Gehazi to look for signs of rain and report back to him. Elijah remained in an attitude of prayer. The servant soon returned with the news that there was no sign of rain. Elijah sent Gehazi out again and again. Finally, on the seventh time, Gehazi returned with the news that he had spotted a tiny cloud in the sky, not a major storm coming, or even several clouds—just one small cloud. But this was enough for Elijah. He told his servant to tell King Ahab that he had better hurry on his journey before the rain started. First Kings 18:45 says the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and heavy rain started falling.
This story gave me pause. I found myself contemplating many points. Why did Elijah have to pray for the rain? He already knew God was going to send it. He had even told King Ahab that rain was coming. Why didn’t he just take the coming rain for granted? Why did he crouch down low asking God for what he already knew God was going to do? Why did he do it seven times? Why did it not start raining the minute Elijah began praying? According to James 5:17, Elijah prayed earnestly. Why? Why the earnestness? Why not just matter of fact prayer? Elijah knew what was going to happen. He knew God was about to send the long awaited, hoped for rain. Yet, somehow, earnest prayer was necessary.
I do not offer definitive answers to these questions, but I have drawn some conclusions:
About the Authors
Harriet E. Michael is a multi-published, award-winning writer and speaker. She has authored or co-authored several books (nonfiction and fiction) with several more under contract for future release. She is also a prolific freelance writer having penned over 200 articles, devotions, and stories. Her work has appeared in publications by Focus on the Family, David C. Cook, Lifeway, Standard Publishing, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Upper Room, Judson Press, Bethany House, and more. When not writing, she loves speaking to women’s groups and teaching workshops on freelance writing.
She and her husband of over 39 years have four children and two grandchildren. When not writing, she enjoys substituting at a Christian school near her home, gardening, cooking, and traveling.
Shirley Crowder is a biblical counselor and co-host of “Think on These Things,” a Birmingham, Alabama, radio/TV program for women. Shirley is commissioned by and serves on the national Advisory Team for The Addiction Connection. Several of her articles have appeared in “Paper Pulpit” in The Gadsden Times’ Faith section, and in a David C. Cook publication. She also writes articles for Life Bible Study, Woman’s Missionary Union, and InspiredPrompt.com. She has authored or co-authored five books. She is passionate about disciple-making, which is manifested in and through a myriad of ministry opportunities: biblical counseling, teaching Bible studies, writing, and music.
Harriet and Shirley grew up together as missionary kids in Nigeria, West Africa. They lived across a dirt road from each other and played together constantly as children. They drifted apart when both sets of parents came back to America and the families settled in different states, but they have renewed their friendship as adults and now often work together writing books. They are under a multi-book contract for devotional books as co-writers with Pix-N-Pens publishing which will keep them busy for several years.
~~More books by Harriet and Shirley ~~