Stimulating, fresh, reassuring—those are three adjectives that describe Ms Shepherd’s useful book, When You Don’t Know What to Pray. As is often the case, the depth of her writing grows from the story of her life. The tragic accident which forever altered her own life as it shattered her daughter’s health informs her thinking as she relates feelings, thoughts and incidents relevantly, wisely and sensitively during the discussions.
I am impressed with the chapter topics chosen for this study. Chapter 3, “What to Pray for Yourself,” for example, might seem at first glance too easy. But it is not. I have coached many in prayer over my years of ministry who have thought it selfish to pray for themselves at all. Others, we are admonished in Scripture, pray for themselves selfishly. So it is a wise topic to cover. Shepherd says, “As you study and come to understand who you are, you will discover that the truth of your new identity in Christ will change everything ( (Shepherd, 2010) p. 51).” Chapter 4, “What to Pray to a Help you Realize God’s Presence” is also a wise choice. Many times I have talked to folks who feel God is distant or who know God is near intellectually but have no personal assurance of it. This chapter is for all of you. It includes the wise reminder that “Grief is a temporary reason why it can be difficult to hear God’s voice (p. 66). Chapters with more easily anticipated content such as “Five Keys to Power Prayer” and “What to Pray When Burdens are Heavy” are also very well done and well worth the reader’s time.
One statement I found incomplete was her statement in chapter 9, “Praying in faith means believing God is able” (p. 131,132). I would suggest that this is only level one of praying in faith. Level two is not only believing God is able but also trusting God’s word that He is at that moment at work for the one being prayed for. As Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work…” (John 5:17); and in Paul’s words, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Ro 8:28 NIV). A third level of faith is unusual but is when we are trusting and acting on a specific revelation of God’s will and plan in a particular situation, when God has opened our spiritual eyes to see what he is already doing.
At the end of each chapter there is a prayer —sometimes more than one prayer—for the reader to use either to inform and guide their own prayers or as a prayer to pray as their own. I am finding a greater appreciation for written prayers both for myself and among those I lead. Most of us from day to day can increase our creativity and broaden the scope of our praying by allowing the writings of others to inform our praying. It is too easy for us to get in a rut.
Each chapter also has a brief section devoted to praying Scripture. I am also a proponent of this practice. I found it meaningful to have Scriptures already outlined in the book to use in working through each chapter’s material in prayer.