Praying Together and a Giveaway!

On the center of our kitchen table we have a little jar filled with popscicle sticks. On each stick is written a prayer concern. As we sit together for meals each day, we take turns praying. Whoever is praying takes a stick and prays for that need. We pray for health concerns of loved ones, missionaries, salvation for loved ones, cultural issues, as well personal prayer concerns.

Each time we pray together as a family, we are participating in corporate prayer.

 

When most of us think of prayer, we think of our individual prayer life. In Megan Hill's new book, Praying Together, she talks about the importance of corporate prayer, of praying together with other's in the Body of Christ. And not only the importance, but the joy and privilege of joining together with our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray. 

Praying Together is divided into three sections: the foundations of praying together (the why of praying together), the fruits of praying together (what God does through our praying together), and the practice of praying together (the how and practical suggestions for praying together). The book includes study questions for use in group settings. 

One of my favorite truths that Megan starts out the book with is the fact that "a Christian never prays alone" (p. 17). Prayer is relational and the Trinity is actively involved in our prayers. "Our relationship with the God who is three-in-one assures us that all three will involve themselves in our praying--making the prayers of a Christian part of a grand, heavenly conversation..In prayer, we approach a loving, listening Father, and we are helped by the intercession of the Son and the groaning of the Spirit." (p. 22-23). What a joy to meditate on this truth!

I also appreciated the chapter on revival. Megan shares a number of stories about the ways God has used the corporate prayers of his people to bring about spiritual revival. From just a few people meeting weekly to pray together for their city, God moved in the hearts of thousands. 

In her chapter on discipleship, Megan shares how God uses corporate prayer in discipleship. "In praying together we disciple one another: we strengthen one another's faith, testify to our experiences of God, shape one another's repentance and desires, stir one another to thanksgiving, and encourage one another in godly habits." (p. 70). And it's so true! As I thought about the times I have prayed with those in my church, all these areas of discipleship were true for me. 

Christina: What prompted you to write this book and who is the intended audience?

 Megan: I wrote this book because I truly love praying with other people. I am a daughter of the church, and from my earliest years I can remember sweet times of praying with God's people--in Lord's Day worship, in church prayer meetings, and with my family. And because I love praying with others, I was surprised to discover that there was really no contemporary, Reformed book on the subject.  Many excellent writers and theologians have addressed the topic of private prayer, but there isn't much modern writing on corporate prayer. I hope this book will be read by individual Christians, but I especially hope it will be read by communities--by families and discipleship groups and even whole churches--who can then take up the work of praying together with greater enthusiasm.

Christina: Was there anything that came out of your research/study for the book that you didn't expect or surprised you in some way? 

Megan: I discovered some wonderful anecdotes about prayer meetings throughout church history. Praying with other people is not a new idea, and I found and retold some stories in my book that still bring me to tears even on the 10th or 12th re-reading. I'm particularly moved by the rich tradition of children's prayer meetings and the way the Lord often used groups of praying children to bring blessing on his church. (I discuss some of these stories about children in this article here.)  

Christina: Did your own prayer life change at all in the process of writing this book? 

Megan: I think writing this book has certainly made me look forward to times of corporate prayer even more than before. Also in the course of writing I grew in my conviction that saying an audible "Amen" during corporate prayers can be a valuable act of whole-hearted participation--even for Presbyterians like me! (I discuss this practice in this article here).

Christina: If there is one thing people take away from the book, what do you hope that would be?

Megan: I hope they pray together more! And I hope people read my book and realize that when we pray with other people we are doing important kingdom work. Sometimes I think people don't realize that when one person is praying aloud, the whole group is actually praying just as earnestly in their hearts. So when the pastor prays from the pulpit, we get distracted because we don't commit ourselves to praying alongside him. In reality, we are all praying--young children and elderly widows, men and women, church leaders and church members, new believers and mature Christians. Praying together is work for all of us.

Christina: Do you have one personal story of praying in community that you didn't share in the book that you'd like to share now?

Megan: About a year ago, I went with my children to visit a woman in our church who was dying of cancer. She was very weak and could barely speak, and when I asked her if we could pray with her, she could only nod her head and close her eyes. My children (who were 6,7, and 8 years-old) and I took turns praying aloud as we held her hands. After we said, "Amen," she looked up and smiled at us. In that moment, I realized what a gift it is to someone who is beyond the ability to speak to have other Christians come and give words to her prayers. When I am dying, I hope others do the same with me. I never saw that sister again--she died very soon after--but I know we will spend eternity praising God together for His answer to that hospital-bed prayer meeting.

Want a copy of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches (The Gospel Coalition (Women's Initiatives))? Enter to win a copy below. I have three to giveaway! US residents only please.

A Heart Set Free and a Giveaway

It's here! My book is here! The baby that I gently carried and nurtured into existence has finally been birthed. On Wednesday, my book will officially be available for sale and I'm so excited to share it with you.

For those who have read my writing for a while now, you know that I often write about emotions. I can't help it; I am trained as a counselor. My goal in writing about emotions has always been to point my readers to the truth of the gospel and the hope they have in Christ. And that's the goal of my book as well. 

Are you often led by your emotions? I am. I think many of us are. Our emotions often rule us. They guide our decisions. Sometimes, they even hold us hostage. 

When hard and difficult emotions enter our lives, we often have go-to responses. We have usual ways we handle our emotions. We might pretend they are not there. We might try to distract ourselves from them. We might try to control them in some way. But how often do we turn to God in his word and in prayer when our hearts are breaking or we are frozen with fear? How often do we cry out to God when we've been hurt by others or when life is overwhelming? How often do we bring our cares to God in lament?

A Heart Set Free is about the art of lament. It is about learning from the Psalms of Lament so that we might then voice our own laments. It is about following the structure and pattern of the laments, a pattern which moves from sorrow to joy; from fear to trust. But it is ultimately about Christ, the one who lamented for us and who has fulfilled all the cries of our heart. 

Here are a few more facts:

1. It's not a Bible study: That's one of the first questions everyone asks. No, it is not a Bible study. It is a book about the Psalms of Lament. It could however be used as a book study with a friend, counselor, or small group.

2. It's a primer on the art of lament: We don't know how to cry out to God when we are afraid, lonely, abandoned, or filled with sorrow. This book follows the structure and pattern of the laments and shows us how to cry out to God.

3. It's not a cure-all or ten-step program: We all like how-to lists. We all like to follow ten steps to freedom from some problem. This book is about journeys and about the process of bringing our sorrows and fears to the Lord. Coming to God with our heartaches often results in greater joy, but not because we followed a particular program. Difficult and painful emotions will be a part of life until Christ returns. This book is about finding our hope in Christ, not in methods or false substitutes. 

4. Though lament is about sorrow, the book is ultimately about joy: This book teaches the art of lament, of crying out to God and seeking his help and salvation. But it is ultimately about coming to the place in our tears where we can trust, praise, and worship God even when life is hard. It's about joy linked with sorrow. It's about knowing that one day all our tears will be wiped away forever. 

Here's what a few others have said about the book: 

"Some days feel like a roller coaster ride--up and down, and if possible sideways ... Christina doesn't ignore our emotions, rather she drives us from the wild ride to the freedom found in Jesus." ~ Trillia Newbell (Author of Fear and Faith and United)

"Christina shows us from God's Word the importance of trusting Jesus with our emotions, even when we are weeping. With theological integrity and practical suggestions she tenderly teaches us the language of lament and how our lamentations can take us to the gospel." ~ Susan Hunt (Pastor's wife, former Director of Women's Ministry for the PCA and author of several books for women and children.)

"... I wish I had Christina's book back when I became a believer. It would have saved me a lot of painful emotion-stuffing and foolish emotion-ignoring." ~ Gloria Furman (Author of Glimpses of Grace, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, and The Pastor's Wife)

"... invites us to vulnerability, transparency and trust - particularly when life is hard ... offers practical, empathetic help for those whose emotions have taken them captive in a time of upheaval." ~ Jen Wilkin (Author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Mind)

To read a review of my book, visit Rachel Miller's blog

To learn more about my book, or get your own copy, click here: A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament.

This is a week of giveaways. So keep coming back to enter! Today's giveaway is one copy of my book, a journal I had hand painted from Sarah Vrooman Designs, a purple (my favorite color!) ESV Bible and a stamped bookmark from The Hand Stamped Heart. Enter below. US residents only. Update: Kim is the winner of this giveaway. Congratulations, Kim!