Lisa Whittle, 5-Word Prayers: Where to Start When You Don’t Know What to Say to God (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2017), 164 pp. $13.99.
Prayer is a mysterious thing, and how God works through prayer is even more mysterious. Several years ago, I was working in a ministry organization that really made me question my calling in ministry. I loved the work and (most of) those I worked with. However my supervisor was anything but a Christian leader. Her morals were questionable, her work ethic was sketchy and her treatment of her employees was determined by how little she paid you (the more you were paid, the worst you were treated, which included public shaming). I was a hospital chaplain, and had just come out of a great situation. I loved where I had worked, however my contract was up and I needed to move on. So I moved across town and immediately regretted my decision.
Fast forward about four months to an incredibly draining weekend where I ended by day by being chewed out for ministering to the family of a dying patient. It was not my unit, however I was the only chaplain available that weekend. The problem was not that I was on a unit that I was not assigned to (necessarily). The problem had been that I had agreed to go and minister to them. By the time I got home, my family was already in bed. Oh, did I forget that I had to be back at 8:00 am the next day. I collapsed into my recliner and simply prayer, “God, please do something now.” It was five words, yet it was probably the most heart-felt prayer that I had ever personally prayed. Five words.
The next day…I was fired. I am still to this day not sure that “you’re the best floor chaplain that I have” is sufficient reason for firing someone. But like I said, everything about this lady was highly questionable. After being let go, I went back to my office to finish my paperwork (it was the deal to get my last paycheck). I flipped open my phone (yup) and saw that I had a voicemail. It was the hospital that I had previously worked for, and they were offering me a job! “Please come to a meeting tonight to hear more details.” Less than twenty-four hours later, and it seemed that God has answered my prayer. I would go on to spend 2-1/2 years with that hospital, leaving only to accept my current full-time teaching position. Five words.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that simply praying a simple prayer will solve all of your problems. What I am saying is that our prayers, especially in difficult times, can be simple prayers—even as simple as five words. This is the beauty of Whittle’s little book. It is theologically light, and can border on advocating the very approach to prayer that I am cautioning you against in this review. However, her “five-word prayers” are practical. Some of her prayers can be adjusted for more critical moments of life, such as the sudden, tragic death of a loved one (“Please give me strength now” or “I want to trust you.”). Yet, in for the busy, connected world that we live in, this prayer guide might be just what you need to find guidance from and fulfillment in God.