I always like to know a little something about an author before I sit down and open up his or her book. Megan Hill’s new book, Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches (Crossway/TGC) releases at the end of this week, on April 30. I hope you’ll read this book. Why? Because, I long for true change in our world, communities, and in my own heart. And, as Megan shares in her book, this type of revival happens when God stirs his people to pray.
I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek with Megan:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a member of West Springfield Covenant Community Church (PCA) in West Springfield, Massachusetts. My husband, Rob, is the pastor; we have three sons. Before I was a pastor’s wife, I was a pastor’s daughter, so I have had the immense privilege of having been a part of Christ’s church all my life. I grew up in Connecticut, went to college in Pennsylvania, lived for 12 sweet years in Mississippi, and just moved to Massachusetts this summer. And, as an older pastor’s wife once encouraged me, I have found that “God’s people are everywhere.”
I spend my days writing, doing laundry, working on jigsaw puzzles with my kids, and praying with the women in my church. And baking cookies. I love cookies.
When did you first start writing? What do you enjoy about it?
I suppose I started in the usual way—writing short stories and poems as a 10- or 11-year-old. Then in college, as part of my English degree, I took an “Advanced Writing” course (essentially creative non-fiction—though I don’t think that term had made it to Grove City, Pennsylvania, yet), and I discovered that I would rather write non-fiction. That’s when I became the religion columnist for the campus paper. Eventually—after years of teaching writing to middle and high school students—I started blogging with my mom, which opened doors to articles for various publications and then a book, Praying Together.
To me, the joy in writing comes not so much from imagining what could be but from putting words to what already is. The ultimate challenge, then, is to write compelling sentences to explain and apply the Word of God—and to write them for the edification of his beloved church.
Is writing ever difficult for you? How so?
Oh yes. I find writing to be difficult almost all of the time. First, of course, I bring my own sin to the task. There’s laziness in my heart. I don’t want to get up at 5:30 a.m. to write the same sentence ten times until I get it right. There’s also a lot of pride. I want my paragraphs to arrange themselves beautifully and effortlessly so I can prove my own worth as a writer. And then there’s what Paul calls “eye-service” and “man-pleasing.” I want to write a viral article, a bestselling book—but I’m not so inclined to be diligent about the piece that only ten people might read or the piece that might make me seem un-cool.
Then, I bring my human weakness. I can only stare at a screen for so long before my eyes and brain start to go fuzzy. I find myself repeatedly moving the same prepositional phrases: Cut. Paste. Cut. Paste. Even on the best days, I don’t think as clearly or as rigorously as I would like. And at some point in the writing of nearly every piece, I weep over my inability to use words well in the service of truth.
But I still love to write. I love the challenge of finding just the right word, just the right phrase, just the right example. In heaven, with the energy-draining battles against sin and weakness removed, I think we’ll finally experience and enjoy the true possibilities of work. Probably crafting sentences in eternity will be even harder (and more rewarding) than it is in this life. I can’t wait!
Praying Together comes from one of the greatest blessings of my own life: praying regularly with God’s people. I have had the immense privilege of praying with my parents and with my children, among my friends and neighbors, alongside sick and suffering saints. I have prayed with other people while exercising, while Skyping, while driving in the car. And, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, I have prayed with the gathered church.
It might be a cliché to say that you should write the book you want to read, but, in my case, it is also true. There are lots of books about prayer in general—and about private prayer—but I don’t know of many (any?) contemporary books that focus on the duty and delight of corporate prayer. So I wrote one.
What’s the central message you hope readers will take away from your book?
There’s an old story about a Scottish woman who was coming out of church one Sunday, and her neighbor asked her if the sermon was done yet. She told him: the sermon is not done [finished] until it is done [put into practice]. That’s how I feel about this book. Praying Together will not be done until it is done.
I hope readers will finish the last page and immediately invite a group of friends over to pray. I hope they’ll show up for worship on Sunday and realize that they are actually praying—joining their hearts and minds before the Throne—while the pastor prays out loud. I hope they will attend a church prayer meeting for an hour and discover they never want to leave.
How has writing this book affected your own life or made you think differently about the topic of prayer?
Because I grew up in the church, praying together has always been a familiar practice. For example, over my lifetime, I’ve regularly attended prayer meetings in five different churches. But writing this book and intensely studying what the Bible says about corporate prayer has given me a new energy for the task. I find myself more eager than ever to pray with God’s people—with my kids, with my friends, with my church, with my neighbors. I’ve just been appointed the “prayer coordinator” for our church’s women’s ministry, and I’m freshly aware that praying together is God’s gracious means for, as one writer said, moving the course of the world.
For a sneak peek, here are some quotes from Praying Together:
“When a handful of people pray together, Jesus will attend every time. And the Father will not deny the requests of a prayer meeting where Christ is also praying. Brothers and sisters, how could we stay away?” Chapter 3: Promise
“On my own, I can be tempted to think that my prayers rise no higher than the ceiling. But among the gathered saints, among those whose genuine faith is breathed out in their prayers, my own faith is strengthened. My eyes are taken off myself, turned toward my gracious God, and in the precious words of the Heidelberg Catechism, I am reminded: ‘It is even more sure that God listens to my prayers than that I really desire what I pray for.’” Chapter 5: Discipleship
“As a teenager I lived for several months in the Scottish Highlands and worshiped with a Free Church of Scotland congregation. I remember my surprise that first Lord’s Day when, as the pastor began to pray, the entire church rose to its feet, standing together for the length of the prayer. As I joined them, I was conscious of being part of a group in action. We were not asleep. We were not listening passively to someone else pray. No. We were at worship, at work, and at war. We were the church, and we were praying together.” Chapter 7: Praying with the Church
Here’s what others are saying about Praying Together:
“Megan Hill has given us a primer on prayer that is both useful and eloquent. Many of us, myself included, are prone to entertain an untruth about prayer: that it should always be easy and spontaneous, free of any hint of discipline or forethought. Megan empathetically and expressively lifts our eyes toward a higher vision, grounded in the truth of Scripture, of prayer as a delightful duty to be practiced, savored, and shared.”
—Jen Wilkin, author, Women of the Word; Bible study teacher
“Megan Hill is a wise and godly woman, a friend, and one of my favorite authors. She writes to move us to pray together in our homes, communities, and churches. She does three things in particular to help us to pray together in this book. She offers us encouragement, experience, and counsel—all richly biblical and theological. The chapter “Praying with the Church” is by itself worth the price of admission. The book is brief enough to be read in a sitting and deep enough to be savored for a semester. If you and your brothers and sisters in Christ pray together with more hope, delight, and expectancy because of reading it, I am sure that Megan will feel her aim is realized.”
—J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi
If you had an afternoon to do whatever you’d like, where would we find you?
With my husband, exploring some historic corner of New England. We both enjoy history (and each other!) and it has been fun to rediscover these places where God once did an extraordinary work. We’ve been to East Windsor, Connecticut (where Jonathan Edwards was born), and we’ve visited the graves of Solomon Stoddard and Asahel Nettleton. To mark the release of Praying Together, we are planning to drive to Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to find the site of the Haystack Prayer Meeting.
Megan Hill is a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter who has spent her life praying with others. She serves on the editorial board for Christianity Today and is a regular contributor to Her.meneutics and the Gospel Coalition. Her book, Praying Together, will be released by Crossway in April.