Publication: Pastoral Letter, September 2013
In this letter, I am happy to announce the release of my new book, Straight Answers to 21 Honest Questions About Prayer, published by Chosen Books. Later in the letter, I will briefly discuss prayer and why we should renew our commitment to it.
I spent last year writing this book after a lifetime of experience and study because I believe that we have entered a season that cries out for more effective praying (see James 5:13-20). Formality, casualness, and prayers disconnected from heart and life will not prevail. We must have a renewed honesty about the subject. There are no formulas.
Effective praying cannot be separated from the heart and life of the one praying. Seeking God’s favor requires humility and honesty_not in word only. To trivialize prayer by mere lip service is to trivialize God and our petitions. Honesty is the soul of prayer.
I had lots of help in this effort. Gregory Mira contributed with research and suggestions. My family, Stephen, Susanne, and Grace helped me editorially, as did Catherine Cooker. The entire staff at Chosen Books was very helpful. Our aim was to make the book spiritually and Biblically solid, as well as practical and applicable. I had to cut 20,000 words from the original manuscript to get within Chosen’s request for 50,000 words. But I believe that the final product will be helpful to all who read and pray.
Each chapter begins with a question which I attempt to answer: Who am I talking to? Why am I praying? What is God looking for? Why is forgiveness important? Why is faith important? Does God answer all prayers? Why must I wait? Why is prayer sometimes a labor? What is the manifest presence of God? The last chapter is very personal: How can we release our spirit into God’s eternal presence? These and other questions and answers are the book’s content.
Each chapter is followed by further questions which I hope will facilitate discussion in small groups. The book will not be without controversy in that I give personal examples of my struggles in conflict with my denomination, the IRS, lawsuits, and relational problems. It is an honest effort that I hope will provoke honest discussion.
I dedicated the book to John and Wendy Beckett, who are both authors and models of Christian life. John is chairman of Beckett Corporation, founder of Intercessors For America, and author of a website that has drawn over 2 million decisions for Christ. This couple has had a very large influence in renewing the focus on prayer and intercession.
I have published several books in the past but this is the first by a large recognized Christian publisher. Chosen was begun in 1971 by John and Elizabeth Sherrill. John and Elizabeth worked with David Wilkerson to produce The Cross and the Switchblade. They wrote the classic book They Speak With Other Tongues and many others. Chosen has published books by Catherine Marshall LeSourd, Brother Andrew, Chuck Colson, Corrie Ten Boom, and other noted authors. They have been a major source of Biblical Christian literature. I am honored that they would invest in this effort. Chosen is part of the Baker Publishing Group.
Throughout this process, I have been deeply appreciative of Dick Leggatt, CEO of Derek Prince Publications, for recommending Jane Campbell of Chosen Books and her subsequent recommendation to Chosen’s editorial committee. Chosen will pursue every avenue to distribute the book. They are invested and I will ask you to join me in being invested in the distribution of the vital message. If prayer is vital, and it certainly is, then we have a serious responsibility to call for a renewed focus on it.
Both CSM and Chosen will distribute Straight Answers. The cost will be $13.95 plus shipping, and it is available now.
I have never been a “marketer”; I’m simply one who writes what the Lord puts on my heart. I have been blessed to publish since 1969, by God’s grace, and you have been a large part of that grace. Whether through CSM, your favorite book store, Amazon, or some other distributor, I am encouraging you to get the book, read it, and tell others about it … not because of a profit motive, but because I believe the Lord told me to write it, and because the issue is paramount.
If you order 10 or more books from CSM, I will offer a discount which will increase with increments of 10. An order for 10 books will sell for $9.95 each, plus shipping. An order for 20 will sell for $7.95 each, plus shipping. Profits from sales will go back into ministry, publishing, and my daughter and son-in-law’s work with children in Costa Rica.
My remarks here will not be a summary of the content, but why I am focused on the subject. In 1964, I became desperate to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I received the answer to my request in a prayer meeting. I did not realize it, but simultaneously, there were thousands of prayer groups springing up across the world. What followed was a wave of revival that I witnessed as I travelled hundreds of thousands of miles across the world. So, I owe my life to God’s grace through prayer, and a prayer meeting where people sought God.
There are numerous keys to effective praying which are discussed in my book, but two stand out: humility and honesty. Anything less is ineffective. Jesus cites two examples of people who prayed in Luke 18:9-14. As we can see, ignorance about the issues of humility and honesty will kill us in our families and our churches. The Lord of the harvest is waiting on us to get our motives right (see Matthew 9:37-38).
We have been naïve about Who God is and what He requires. Naiveté is the forerunner of tyranny. Facing reality is the forerunner of mercy. Complaining and criticizing are not the same things as interceding, nor are they effective. We must turn our thoughts to God; the government will not be the answer, though we are called to pray for it. Radical Islam and militant secularism are problems, but resistance alone is not the solution. Salvation belongs to God. We are at His mercy.
Jesus often rebuked the religious establishment for how they viewed God, and how and why they prayed. In Matthew 21:13 He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Humility and honesty are the soul of prayer and prayer is the soul of God’s house_His assembly and family.
Jesus was so involved in prayer that all He did in life and death was to finally sit down at the Father’s Right Hand and become our High Priest and intercessor. Therefore, intercession is the highest of all ministries. Our priesthood is intercession, placing ourselves between God and destruction (see Exodus 33:7-34:7) If not us, who will intercede?
There are numerous examples of effective prayers that are recorded in the Bible (and also examples of ineffective ones). Moses, Hannah, and the apostles came to mind. The apostles requested that Jesus teach them HOW to pray as John the Baptist taught his disciples. He gave them a model, not only His prayer recorded in Matthew 6, but in life as they observed His prayer life. One chapter in my book is “What Can We Learn from Jesus’ prayer life?”
Jesus must have been effective in teaching His disciples, because they prayed effectively to receive the Holy Spirit, to endure persecution, and about other important issues. We have no evidence that He taught them homiletics (how to preach), but He did teach them how to pray. Therefore, their preaching had a profound impact. Real church growth comes from powerful prayers.
The apostles prayed house-shaking prayers and jail-breaking prayers. Unless prayer moves us and God, it will not shake the house. We must return to the kind of praying that shakes things; methods are not enough.
My parents were faith missionaries in the Bayous of South Louisiana during the 1930s. Later, my father became pastor of a Southern Baptist church. I learned about prayer from hearing them pray, often in tears. But it wasn’t until I shed my own tears that I came to experience the power of prayer.
I want to be honest: I am not the paragon of prayer. I often got “too busy” and have sometimes neglected my prayer life. In so doing, I made devastating errors. I rejoice that our Lord does not change, and we still have an opportunity to seek His face. I will also re-read my own book! But I will be ever grateful to my parents who, like Jesus, taught their disciple to pray.
So, I am asking you to join me in this mission to promote prayer_not just that we should pray, but that we can do it better, and call others to it. We will not be heard due to the length of our prayers, but because we meet God’s conditions. After all, He is the Lord, the One we approach, and hopefully the One Who will save us.
Recently, the Lord has answered several of my prayers and that has brought great joy to me. There are others that remain unanswered. Those rewards are yet to come. An answered prayer is among life’s greatest joys: a new baby, a financial breakthrough, a lost loved one coming to Christ, a healing, deliverance, and a host of other blessings. That should motivate us to seek the Lord and call loudly upon Him. He is waiting; the Creator of something out of nothing is waiting. May His wait not be long!
Jeremiah 33:3; Psalm 126:5-6
P.S. For more information on Straight Answers to 21 Honest Questions About Prayer, visit us on the web at csmpublishing.org. Also, please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your giving, especially during the month of September. Your friendship and support are vital to us as we move forward in the mission that God has set before us.
Scripture Reference: James, Luke, Matthew, Exodus