Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review: When You Need a Miracle

When You Need A Miracle: How To Ask God for The Impossible. Linda Evans Shepherd. 2012. Revell. 207 pages.

I'm guessing you picked up this book because you need a miracle. 

Linda Evans Shepherd is a new-to-me author. When offered the opportunity to review this one, I accepted knowing that it would be a risk. I could potentially find a new author to read, or, I could find her theology not to be a match with my own. As it turns out, Linda Evans Shepherd is not for me. Sometimes it is just a matter of style or preference. For example, I'm not a fan of Max Lucado. (Too many stories, not enough substance.) Sometimes it's a more of an issue with content and subject matter. I'm really, really not a fan of Elizabeth George. (The Elizabeth George in question being the Christian author of "women's books" not the mystery writer whose works I've never tried.) And sometimes it is more a matter of doctrine and theological differences. It's a little bit of all three in the case of Linda Evans Shepherd's When You Need A Miracle. I definitely had some theological concerns about it.

Table of contents:

  • Need a miracle?
  • The Trust Factor
  • The Love Factor
  • The Truth Factor
  • The Forgiveness Factor
  • What Hinders Our Prayers
  • Fighting the Enemy
  • More Strategies for Fighting the Enemy
  • The Praise Factor
  • The Sold Out Factor
  • The Next Step Principle
  • The Intercession Factor
  • The Miracles of It All 

This is a book about prayer. Yes, it's a book about miracles too. But it is a book about prayer, about learning to live with an awareness of God's presence, about learning to trust that God is who He says He is, about learning to accept that God wants to answer your prayers, that God wants to do miracles in your life, that God welcomes your dependence on Him. In the first chapter, she writes, "Miracles are not about praying the perfect prayer; miracles are about what happens when we welcome God's presence and power into our situations and our lives" (16).

For readers who enjoy books with printed prayers to pray for specific situations, for certain circumstances, etc., this one has plenty to offer. Each chapter has at least one prayer for you to pray. Just fill in the blanks and make it yours. Some chapters offer more than one prayer. For example, the chapter, "What Hinders Our Prayers" offers for each of the reasons:

  • wrong perspective of God
  • not knowing who we are in Christ
  • lack of faith and trust
  • disappointments
  • not asking in the name of Jesus
  • grumbling and complaining
  • grudges or unforgiveness
  • self-will and disobedience
  • timidity or fear
  • prayerlessness
  • unconfessed sin
  • not reading the Word
  • not standing against the schemes of the enemy
  • thanklessness
  • not fasting
  • not giving

The book is comprehensive when it comes to the topic of prayer, of answered prayer (miracles), of unanswered prayers, etc.

Why isn't this book a good match for me? Well, I found it had too many stories. A few stories--particularly her own personal stories about her own life, her own experiences--would be fine with me. But there were dozens and dozens of stories, some were stories of her friends, some were stories about people she met or heard about. Some of these stories were about near death experiences. Some were about men, women, children, who died went to heaven, came back to life and had some great spiritual truth to impart. I don't know about you, but these stories take me way out of my comfort zone. The truth is they could be perfectly true, but, it's also true that there is no way that they can be tested. These testimonies or stories are not as rock-solid as the Bible. I personally prefer to learn about God, about heaven, from the Bible. Of course, not all of these stories were about heaven, some were just miracles in the here and now. I suppose stories are what one should expect in a book about miracles. Real-life examples of men, women, teens, children who have prayed to God and received answers. For example, one woman who needs socks but can't afford to buy them, prays to God about her need for socks, and the next day a woman shows up at her door with three bags of socks. Or, a church that had faith that God would provide toys for a toy drive at Christmas, even though they didn't have the money to buy the toys, one woman donated more than enough at the last moment. Of course, some seem--to me--less impressive. Stories about students who "miraculously" managed to finish semesters of school with passing grades. (Don't get me wrong, I prayed when I was in school too, but, I do think it's a matter of applying yourself, of reading what is required, of studying, of taking notes, of attending class, etc.)

Another issue that I had with this one is about spiritual warfare, about Satan and demons and such. There were several chapters about this, and, they were definitely outside my comfort zone. These were prayers to pray specifically to free yourself, your family, your house, your church, etc. from demonic control and/or influence. These are prayers that the author encourages readers to pray daily. These are prayers about how to break curses, how to break family curses, generational curses, curses "placed" on you by your family, your friends, your coworkers, your enemies, etc. The author mentions in several chapters her belief in curses. That there are words we speak that give Satan and his forces power over us, control over us, authority over us. That words spoken in anger, bitterness, frustration, depression, pride, arrogance selfishness, jealousy, disappointment; words spoken casually, playfully; words spoken in complaint, the gossip we speak, the gossip we have spoken about us, etc. act as curses--that they give power and authority to Satan. She definitely writes about praying blessings and praying to lift curses. Here's an example:
Have you ever walked through your house or dwelling and asked God to bless each room with the power of the blood of Jesus? It's a nice thing to do, but let me caution you. The first time I ever blessed my home, my beautiful and healthy dog, a snow-white Samoyed, walked into the one room I had not prayed over and fell over dead. I don't know exactly why this happened, but nevertheless, I count it as a warning. If you decide to bless your home (and you should), please remember to pray over every room, bathroom, and hallway, including the garage, porch, closets, attic, breezeway, and basement. (129)
I got the idea that the author definitely places a lot of power in words, in spoken words, perhaps believing that our words create our reality? or that our words have power over our lives? I'm not sure. So I definitely have some hesitations about this one as a whole.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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