At the Christian Booksellers Association convention, Pam Glass of Christian Book Previews sat down with Elizabeth to discuss her new book, A Woman's Call to Prayer.
CBP: In A Woman’s Call to Prayer you say, “You are to pray because prayer releases the energy of God…” That struck me as rather New Age; could you explain what you mean by that?
ELIZABETH: Well, prayer doesn’t change God’s plan or God’s will or God’s sovereignty. It releases His power in our own lives--but just the transformation that takes place. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” So when you pray for your enemies, it changes your heart. And if you don’t pray for your enemies you continue to hold a grudge or be bitter or resentful. So I would say it releases His power in our hearts; its transforming power in His grace in our own lives. But it doesn’t change God; prayer changes us.
CBP: On page 69, you say, “When it comes to praying for others there can be no personal agenda.” My question is, is this entirely possible, realistically speaking? If you are praying for the salvation of a spouse, or the salvation of a child, aren’t you so involved? How do you separate your personal agenda from that prayer?
ELIZABETH: Let’s just say, no expectations and no impure motives. We can pray for the salvation of an unsaved husband because it would make our life easier if he were saved, or then we could talk about spiritual things, or then he might be the spiritual leader in the family. But that’s our agenda. Where God would rather save a soul from eternal death and destruction, we want to get our hearts in tune with God. We can pray for God to work in our children’s lives, but it’s the why we’re praying. It’s not wrong to pray, but it’s like giving, expecting nothing in return. We pray, but we have no expectations. We pray for the reasons God would want us to pray, and the end result and the why. Not for our sake, but for that person’s sake, and for the Kingdom of God and His purpose.
CBP: In one of your examples you use the term “contending in prayer.” That has rather stern, directive tone to it. Of course, there’s the example of Jacob wrestling with the angel, but he ended up lame!
ELIZABETH: It’s heartfelt wrestling when you are praying for the right things and for the right reasons. It’s like pleading your case with God. To me a better example would be Abraham talking with God, “If there were righteous people there, if there were this many, this many, would you kill?” He just kept bringing his heart, his prayer, even his theology. You know, “How could God kill a righteous person?” More the character of God than even saving Lot. So that’s our lesson there. I have met people who will not pray for the salvation of anyone because it is totally in God’s hands. Yet we’re instructed in Scripture to pray. “I prayed once for my sister’s salvation, now it’s up to God.” And I say, “No, you continue to struggle, you continue to bombard heaven.” Like the illustrations the Lord gave about the widow who went to the king and went to the king and went to the king until he said “Give her whatever she wants so she’ll stop asking!” But if you really care. . . I know I shared in the book about fasting for nine months. It started out being about one thing, which was finished in six months, but four other issues came into my life, so I continued to fast. It helps every thought to be a prayer and about that specific issue. And whatever it’s accomplishing makes it very important, and we keep asking and asking in faith and obedience.
CBP: And sometimes, never seeing an answer.
ELIZABETH: But we can have peace of mind. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer. . .” -- know we’re being obedient to that. We can experience peace of mind, we can grow, we can change, we can soften, we can become more accepting of reality. We believe God is in control. We don’t always act like God is in control, but maybe we come to the place where we exhale and you know, it’s O.K. God is in control.
CBP: It’s easier for someone like Paul who prayed three times, and God gave him a specific answer that, in a sense, stopped his praying. It didn’t change the situation, but it stopped his praying for that specific thing. Do we ever see a situation like that in our lives today?
ELIZABETH: Three times, or a period?
ELIZABETH: Well, in his case, the Lord Himself spoke to him. But we have that sure Word, recorded in Scripture, which is profitable for us. I think it comes down to our role is to pray and God is always guiding. And when we have assurance of mind and heart that something’s truly settled and over. . . I’m just having a thought, say, of a woman whose husband wants to leave her, and maybe leaves physically, separates, then files for divorce. And she didn’t want him to leave, she doesn’t want the divorce, so she prays and prays and prays but the day that divorce is final, she has done her praying and God is showing her His new will for her life. And because of the praying heart, lifting everything to God every day, every minute, every thought, every pain, there can be that, “O.K.” like Paul had. “I can do all things through Christ” who’s going to strengthen me, and Your grace is going to be sufficient for me and my children to now not have a dad and husband. So I think prayer paves the way. We do battle in prayer up to the minute that the answer’s clear. We shouldn’t give up. A lot of women in that situation will give up or become bitter and not pray and not ask. And they’re in such shock and such pain that they’ll already write it off and become bitter in their hearts. I believe that whether it’s for a child or for some issue in your own life or the salvation of parents that are dying with cancer, with just months and days to live you pray up to the last fingernail-scraping prayer, and when God does reveal His will that is an answer, and you trust His wisdom and then you adjust your life to the new situation, to His revealed will.
CBP: You wrote something that made me laugh, but I didn’t write down the page number. You said, “Be sure you are a lady. . . this extends to your prayer posture.” It sounds like you may have a story behind this!
ELIZABETH: In the Scripture, Titus 2:3-5, the older women are to be in behavior becoming godliness and they’re to be temperate in all things and discreet. I guess I could say my bottom line is this: if your posture of worship is interfering with another person being able to worship then the line’s been crossed. And all I was saying there was just check it or hold it back or think of others, because if we make someone uncomfortable then we’re interfering with their worship of God – and vice-versa.
CBP: You know the response to that, of course, is, “Well, that’s your problem. You shouldn’t be focusing on what I’m doing; you should be focused on your own worship. What I’m doing shouldn’t have any effect on you if you’re really spiritual.”
ELIZABETH: But sometimes, if you’re in a church service, very formal, singing hymns, and one person goes out into the aisle making her the only person in the aisle, and almost dance. You know there are churches where they have the ladies dance, but everybody’s doing it. And this is in the church service, not a retreat setting, and she just gets so into it. And for the mom elbowing her child who is saying, “Mom, look at that! What’s that lady doing? What’s wrong with that lady?” That mother and child will not be worshiping. They have an issue they have to deal with during the time that was designated for their worship. You know, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Paul was all things to all people and just look around and see what the norm is where you are and conform to that. What’s going on in your heart is up to you.