Our youth group is focusing on prayer this term so I was stoked when I was chosen to review The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by the man behind the prayer ministry organisation, Common Thread Ministries, author Mark S. Mirza. Mark’s passion is prayer and his goal in writing The Pray-ers is to ‘teach prayer through the fun of a novel’.
For the purpose of the review I received a digital version of the book, but the book is available to buy as both a digital download and an actual paperback book, both published by CTM Publishing Atlanta
As a woman who tries so hard to be an early bird, but who really does not do well actually functioning at any kind of level in the mornings I opted to include reading this book as part of my devotional time in the evenings. Often times it was the last thing I would read at night.
The book contained three stories running concurrently and set in three different time periods, each focusing on a particular character.
- The first followed the adventures of the Epaphras (mentioned in the New Testament) during Biblical times.
- The second a peripatetic preacher called Alexander Rich, set in post-civil war Georgia
- And lastly track coach Dr Dale, who lives in modern-day Georgia and runs a prayer ministry for men.
I really liked the concept of this book, which is to encourage the awareness of the presence of demons who work to destroy our prayer efforts with God; that there is a very real and very powerful spiritual battle going on every day, including the past, present and future. Reminiscent of what CS Lewis achieved in his Screwtape Letters, The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles attempts to show the reality and deceptiveness of the fallen angels and how easily they can get into our heads by creating doubt about the presence of God in our lives. I think we tend to go through life accepting the bad with the good, but The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles clearly demonstrated the role of the demons who plot and plan with evil intention to cause dissension among God’s people. A balance is found as Mirza includes the angels as well, who are just as enthusiastically trying to thwart the attempts of the demons to destroy man’s relationship with God.
But really, this book is all about God and our relationship with Him through prayer. It is clear. This battle is God’s to win, not ours. Our job is to pray, to walk close with God, to accept His protection and His love so that we are not vulnerable to the effects of Satan and his forces.
My Opinion? I really wanted to enjoy this book, but editorial preferences made it hard (such as choosing not to capitalise the names of demons – a noble choice but one which made reading a little less easy). I had (incorrect) preconceived ideas about the book, believing it to be a historical novel of sorts, and it was this expectation which led to the disappointment. I found it difficult to read fluidly, like I would a regular work of fiction. The thing is, this wasn’t a regular work of fiction, and is a book I believe would make a better study guide than a simple fictitious read.
Let me explain. Each page contained the story but also footnotes steeped in Bible. At first I read every footnote, but soon realised this would hinder the fluidity of the story immensely, as they very much interrupted my reading flow. However, not reading them decreased my understanding of the nuances within the story, and lessened the teaching potential of the whole book. I believe I could have overcome this by reading one chapter without the footnotes and then rereading it with the footnotes with a note-book opened taking my own notes as I would during a sermon.
In conclusion, this book has definite potential as both a teaching tool and as a work of fiction. I believe most of the issues I had stem from the awkwardness of attempting to combine the two. I would recommend The Pray-ers/ Book 1 Troubles as an excellent study guide on the topic of the very real power of prayer.
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