Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
I found a chance to catch up with Joy Wilson, author of “Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God.” After reading it and reviewing it, I had a few questions for her. Her book had already challenged my prayer life so I wanted to dig just a little bit deeper.
RC: I loved your book and I want to ask some really detailed questions about it in a minute, but I want to get to know you a little better first. You’re very honest about your life and who you are, but I want to know some superfluous things first. What kind of books do you like to read? What are your favorite kinds of music? What do you like to do in your spare time?
JW: In my spare time, I’m usually reading 3-4 different books simultaneously, mostly history (especially Civil War and WWII) and mysteries. Favorite authors are Stephen E. Ambrose, Shelby Foote, David McCullough, and Anne Perry. My musical tastes run from Joni Mitchell and Stevie Ray Vaughn to old scratchy record blues and the great sacred classical choral works.
RC: What do you mean by “uncensored prayer” and “wrestling with God”?
JW: God wants to have totally honest conversations with us, and we can say anything we want since He/She already knows what we think. No topic, language, or feeling is unholy. It’s wrestling through anger, faith, pain, hope about every aspect of our lives. As we begin to develop a personal relationship of love and trust, we can experience the redemptive freedom that comes from speaking freely with God.
RC: You said “God wants to have totally honest conversations with us.” How does a person hear from God? Is it an impression upon your soul?
JW: Most people think of prayer as talking to or at God. The most common question I’m asked about prayer is, “How do you know you’re hearing from God?” The Lord can speak to us in a variety of ways – through Scripture, a song, nature, what someone says, and just in our hearts. God’s response might be a direct answer, or peace that hasn’t come through any other means. God wants us to know that we’re hearing from Him or Her and will make sure we do, if we’re willing to listen. We won’t always get the answer we want, or when we want it, but the Lord always gives us what we need.
RC: Do you find that some people feel threatened or afraid of trying uncensored prayer?
JW: We all have beliefs about God and prayer. Some of us are comfortable with religious rituals that define what’s appropriate to say in prayer. Other people think prayer is a four-letter word, and are unwilling to approach a Deity they think is angry, judgmental, and easily offended. Stepping out of our comfort zone is never easy, because the unknown is scary. But seeking God in complete honesty gives us the chance to find out for ourselves what God is really like.
My conservative Christian upbringing taught me that God accepts or rejects us based on what we do. Because I didn’t/couldn’t meet those requirements, including “faith”, I gave up trying to please a God who was already mad at me. One day I screamed out my pain and anger in uncensored prayer. To my total shock, God screamed back His love for me, which is what it took for me to believe I was unconditionally accepted, and our relationship grew from there.
RC: You give insight to your writing process in your book. You talk about the need to be inspired before you write. What inspires you to write? Is your writing process a lot like how you engage in uncensored prayer?
JW: Uncensored prayer is spontaneous; writing takes work, but when God and I write together, creativity flows from our combined hearts and minds. In contrast, when I write by myself, even if I have a great idea, it’s like pulling up words out of concrete and it usually ends up in the trash!
Some ideas just come to me – like the first line of a poem. Poems are my written uncensored prayers (though I also pray out-loud). If I’m in a position to drop everything and get by myself, a poem will usually be completed within thirty minutes, and except for one or two word changes, it’s finished. Writing articles or chapters takes a lot of time and effort, but I enjoy it (usually!). My editor, Jonathan Brink, inspired me to write prose. Actually, he taught me to write prose!
RC: In your book, you mentioned that you felt that some people might be upset with what they read. Was that a consequence of your writing? If it was, how did you handle it?
JW: To my great surprise, I’ve only received one negative comment since the book was released in July, 2011. My belief is God is putting the book into the hands of people who need it and are receptive to its message.
RC: What has been the most unexpected outcome of the publication of your book?
JW: The opportunity to teach my book on-line.
RC: In hindsight, is there a message you wish you could add to the book?
JW: For years, I’ve been aware of both the male and female characteristics of God. If I could make one change in the book, I would probably refer to God as He/She most of the time, or state in the introduction that I would be calling God “He” for simplification purposes.
RC: What did you learn from writing this book?
JW: That following God can be terrifying, because the Lord always leads us into the wild unknown and has a bad habit of jumping off cliffs, dragging us along while we scream, “NOOOOOO!” But if I hadn’t gone through the doors God opened, my book wouldn’t exist. Through the experiences of writing and teaching my book, and telling people about it, I have learned to trust God on a much deeper level.
RC: After reading this book, what can someone do to pursue uncensored prayer further?
JW: For a guided, in-depth study, I recommend my on-line class. Over five weeks, we explore and practice wrestling with God through every aspect of our lives in complete honesty, and learn how to hear from God. It is self-paced, so you can participate whenever best fits your schedule. The course includes reading assignments in my book, daily guided prayer time, keeping a journal, and class interaction on a Discussion Board. The next class will be offered July 23-August 24, 2012. For more information and to register, click on this link: http://beadisciple.com/workshops.html#UncensoredPrayer
Please take time to visit Joy’s Blog. She is a regular contributor here at Provoketive as well.