I recently spoke with Sheila Walsh about her book, Praying Women. Her latest publication takes an in-depth look at prayer and how we can bear our hearts before God, even when we don’t know what to say, or when we feel like we don’t have the ‘perfect prayer’. Sheila Walsh explains how you can wholly and courageously embrace the power of prayer.
How can we build a powerful prayer life?
You simply start where you are. I read this quote by John Bunyan where he talks about it’s more important to have a heart without words and words without a heart. Sometimes we think there has to be a right way to pray. Is there a right posture? Is there an order of things that we should pray for? We find that intimidating.
I [see] it as this invitation from God, Come and sit for a while. Just come and be with me. God is way more interested in our presence than in our perfection. For so many years I wanted to be perfect. It’s ridiculous when I think about it now, but I wanted to impress God with getting everything right. What I began to realize was that God was not looking for perfection, He has that in Christ. All He was looking for was my presence. Just showing up and being with him.
What is the power of this, this one word prayer of “Jesus”?
Sometimes the most powerful prayer in the world is just simply one word. It’s just the name of Jesus. I love that because there’s times when we don’t know what to pray. And there’s times when you suddenly find yourself in a situation that is immediate, and you probably don’t have time to come out with a long, formal prayer. But we always have the power of the name of the Lord right here. There’s no more powerful name. So now I’m simply coming in the name of the one who can do everything. I’m simply calling in on the name of Jesus.
How should we approach prayer when we feel like we don’t have the perfect words?
I would say to them to honor perfect words. I mean, when your child starts to speak to you when they’re little, most moms hope their first word would be mom and most dads for school would be dad. But as they grow, they learn a few more words and it’s even more beautiful. And I think when you’re beginning a life of prayer, you simply use what you have.
What does prayer look like when the unexpected happens?
I remember reading a quote by Corrie Ten Boom asking, Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? Is it the first thing you turn to to direct your life or the just what you use when everything else has failed? When the road is so dark and there’s no specific map, it’s like we have a guide in Jesus who modeled what it looks like to pray when it’s hardest to pray.
The thing is, when you’re brutally honest with God, when you don’t pretend to have it all together and pretend to be okay with everything, it’s like the more you pour our your agony, the more space you make for grace in your life.
What do you hope people take away from Praying Women?
Whenever I finish a book, I always spend a little time just praying over the manuscript. One of the first prayers was that by the time that women got to the end of it, they would be more in love with Jesus. I mean, that’s honestly my prayer over every single manuscript. But in this one, it was just praying that women would take a first step. I know that some of the people who pick up the book will have walked with the Lord for 50 years. Some of them will be great intercessors, and I’m so grateful that some will be people who just literally don’t bother to pray because they’re not really sure how to do it, or whether it makes a difference.
I’m praying that it will spark inside every woman, whether she’s 12 or 92, that this is the most powerful weapon that we have been left on this earth. We hear in Revelation that the prayers of God’s people gathered up in bowls like a sweet incense. I think every prayer that’s prayed adds to the fragrance of Heaven, and what a privilege that is!