We read stories of world-changing leaders in history books and hear about the amazing things they did. But one part of the story is often left out: the role of prayer in their lives and the effect it had on their singular accomplishments. How can prayer make history?
What do you say to people who think your book’s title is audacious?
Tricia Goyer: History is the study of past events. We often don’t get the full story from history books. The amazing thing about looking back at historical people and events with spiritual eyes is seeing how whispered prayers impacted the course of a person’s life—and beyond. There are times when ordinary people prayed and things happened, such as tens of thousands of orphans being cared for (in George Muller’s case), organizations being created (Catherine Booth), and a monumental missionary movement happening (David Livingston). Because of prayer, history is forever changed. I loved digging out moments when influential men and women turned to God in prayer. It is a bit audacious, but then so are things God asks men and women to do in his name!
What is prayer and why is it important for people to pray?
Tricia Goyer: Prayer is taking one’s eyes off of one’s circumstances and own abilities and, instead, lifting one’s heart up to God. Jesus doesn’t physically walk by our side, as he did with the disciples, but, instead, he leads us through the Holy Spirit. Each of us has a special connection with the Holy Spirit when we go before God in prayer. Through prayer we can make a difference in the world we live in, too. The difference starts with internal changes and then leads to external ones.
Prayer shouldn’t always be about asking God to change things. Instead, it’s asking God to change us and give us his heart. And once we have his heart, we care about the things he cares about. That’s when things truly begin to change.
How did you select the people you write about?
Tricia Goyer: I started collecting stories in 1999. Every time I came across a “prayer that changed history,” I filed it away. The file grew and there were soon too many stories to include in one book. I chose stories by picking a sampling of men and women throughout history. I didn’t want to focus too much on one era, but, instead, show how prayers over generations have made an impact.
Each person’s chapter is comprised of sections, one of which is “It’s in the Bible.” What is that about?
Tricia Goyer: When I started compiling these stories, it was amazing how similar these historical stories were to biblical stories. For example, one night Patrick (St. Patrick) had a dream that the people of Ireland were asking him to come to them and tell them about God. This story reminded me of the Bible story of Paul having a dream about a man from Macedonia asking him to come and tell him about Jesus. That’s just one example. Over and over again I saw similarities between historical stories and biblical accounts. I love how God’s fingerprints are all over history.
How should the Bible influence a person’s prayer life?
Tricia Goyer: The Bible should be the foundation for everything, including how we see history.
The Bible is filled with amazing stories of what happens when people pray: the sun standing still, the walls of Jericho falling, the mouths of lions closing. We know those are answers to prayers because the Bible gives us an eternal perspective.
We should view history in the way we see the Bible–as a platform for God to do his great work, starting first in the hearts of men and women and then through events and circumstances. The more we read and understand the Bible, the more we know the value and the power of prayer.
Reading the Bible has transformed my life, and when I view the world and history through the lens of the Bible, I see God’s hand everywhere.
Talk about one of the people you feature in Prayers That Changed History.
Tricia Goyer: One of my favorite stories is about Corrie ten Boom. As a writer of historical novels I’ve known about Corrie for a long time, but when I researched for this book I discovered an amazing story of prayer. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Prayer came naturally to Corrie. Her parents made prayer an important part of her life. Her parents taught her to pray, and they lived an example of prayer. Corrie’s grandfather, Willem ten Boom, felt the need to pray for Jewish people after a moving worship service. In 1844, the ten Boom family, along with friends and neighbors, started a weekly prayer meeting for Jewish people. Every week they specifically prayer for the peace of Jerusalem as talked about in Psalm 122:6. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (KJV). These meetings took place every week for one hundred years. They stopped on February 28, 1944, when Nazi soldiers came to the house to take the family away.
I love that story! 100 years before Corrie was taken to a concentration camp for hiding and protecting Jewish people, her family started praying for them. Corrie’s life was changed and her testimony still continues through her books. It’s a reminder to me how prayer can impact generations.
P.S. Mark your calendars… global day of prayer is May 15!