22/03/2013

What happens when women pray? (by Evelyn Christenson)

This is one of those books which turned up on our bookshelves, as so many books seem to have done, some time in the 1980s. I'd not heard of the author - the late Evelyn Christenson - but apparently she prayed that God would help her to teach the world to pray.

I first read 'What happens when women pray?' in 1999. I really didn’t like the title of this book much, but apparently the author was persuaded to change it from 'What happens when we pray?' by her publishers, who felt that it would appeal more to women.  And to be fair, the title does reflect content of the early chapters, where the author describes her experiments setting up prayer groups in her neighbourhood, and seeing what happens.

The book opens back in 1967 when Evelyn Christenson was asked by her denomination in the US to do an experiment - gathering together a group of women to pray, and then record what happened after six months. She began with eight somewhat reluctant participants who had no idea what to expect... and then, gradually, they started seeing God at work.

Before long Evelyn was running prayer workshops, and inspiring churches and other gatherings all over the country to try group prayer, using her recommended principles to get going. She describes the ‘6 S’ guidelines in one of the chapters: keeping prayers short, simple, and specific, praying subject by subject, allowing for silences, and praying in small groups. Not that these are rigid requirements, just suggestions to make it easier to get started.

As when I’ve previously read the book, I found myself quite encouraged to read what the women learned about themselves and God, quite apart from ‘answers’ to prayer. But my inclination as an introvert is still to pray alone rather than in groups, something which is mentioned but is obviously not the focus of the book.

It was interesting reading the last chapter, on telephone prayer chains, which now seems quite dated in the modern era when email prayer chains are probably commoner, allowing requests to go instantly to a large number of people, and - more importantly - ensuring that the original request is correctly passed on, rather than losing something or even getting muddled after being passed from phone to phone by people who may not know much about the situation concerned.

The writing is good, with anecdotes about the prayer groups nicely mixed in with some gentle teaching about prayer in general, and I enjoyed re-reading this book over the last week or so.

Recommended. I'm delighted to see that it's still in print on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 22nd March 2013 

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