Guest Interview: Janet McHenry
I am so excited to have Janet McHenry as my guest today. Her latest book: The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus: What Jesus Prayed and How It Will Change Your Life Today (Bethany House) can be purchased wherever fine books are sold or at Amazon by clicking on the image below.
Janet McHenry is a nationally-known speaker and best-selling author of 23 books—six of those on prayer, including the best-selling PrayerWalk and her newest book, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. Featured on radio and in magazines such as Health and Family Circle for her prayerwalking, she and her rancher husband Craig live in the Sierra Valley, where they raised four children and enjoy kayaking on nearby lakes.
DW: Thanks for joining us. You are one of the most inspirational Christian authors I know. You reminded me, through your writing, of the power of prayer walking in my neighborhood. I love praying for the people in the various houses and our neighborhood in general. Tell our readers what state you currently call home and any other places that have special significance in your past.
JM: I live in the remote, rural northeastern part of California in the Sierra Valley, which is about an hour north of Lake Tahoe and 40 minutes from Reno. I was raised until age 13 in Hudson in upstate New York until we moved to the Southwest for my mom’s health. I thought Hudson, population 13,000, was small until I moved to the town where I live, Loyalton, which has about 800 folks on a good day. Our entire county doesn’t have a single stoplight. We do stop for cattle, though.
DW: So glad you stay out of the way of cattle. They can be a bit large and hard on a car bumper. What genre or genres do you like to write?
JM: My favorite genre is nonfiction—both to read and to write—specifically in the area of prayer. However, I have written a long list of other kinds of books: children’s board books, first chapter books, girls’ mysteries, gift books, Bible studies, and a cozy mystery for adults.
DW: Yes. You have enjoyed an amazing career to date and much more to come. Tell us about your most recent book and the message(s) behind it?
JM: The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus is the culmination of nearly 20 years of study on Jesus' prayer life. When I started prayerwalking in 1998, I became fascinated with the idea that the Creator of the universe would want to hear from me and speak to me. As I began reading through the Bible each year, I’d mark all the references to prayer with a circled P—particularly focusing on the gospels. Then I began taking notes about everything Jesus taught about prayer, what he did about prayer, and his prayers themselves. The overall message is that Jesus had to be with his Father. Instead of having pockets of time for prayers, I now have a praying lifestyle and am thrilled to share his prayer life and teachings now with others.
DW: Your commitment to spreading the good news about prayer is one of the big messages of your writing. I hope my friends will get your book and see all the ways you talk about the relationship that inspired. What authors do you like to read?
JW: I’ll read anything on prayer by the brilliant Jennifer Kennedy Dean, who wrote an amazingly foundational book on prayer called Live a Praying Life and who just happened to write the foreword for my book. In fiction I’ll read anything by Cynthia Ruchti or Jan Karon—wonderful writers in my preferred genre, contemporary.
DW: Good choices. Cynthia is one of my favorites and will be a future guest here on my blog soon. Other than the Bible, which we all can agree is a must-read, what books affected your life and how did they make an impact?
JW: As a former high school English teacher, I believe the two most important novels to read are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (but don’t read her other book—it’s terrible) and Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Both are lyrical and key for understanding others of different backgrounds. Another couple literature classics are John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (if only for his brilliant narrative form) and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (because of the powerful story about sacrifice).
I am grateful to many writers on prayer and have many shelves of their books. One that is often overlooked is Prayer by O. Hallesby; it is short but profound for the concept of prayer as an offering. I’ve been inspired by Mark Batterson’s books on prayer, too—the first of those, The Circle Maker. He essentially teaches that prayer is key to bringing heavenly power to earth. For my book PrayerStreaming, which is about praying without ceasing, I read dozens of classic works on prayer and am grateful for the works of Brother Lawrence, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, and many others. I got a glimpse of how it is possible to dwell 24/7 with God.
DW: No arguing with those choices, except Cry, the Beloved Country. I haven’t read it yet, so let’s argue. Not really. I just need to catch up. I’m a big Brother Lawrence fan as well. Tell us about a memorable reader or fan. Perhaps a story about a personal encounter or some kind of email or message you received.
JW: Gosh, whenever I speak somewhere, it always astounds me that people will come up to me and say they read PrayerWalk and that it changed their life. I have kept in touch with one particular gal in the Midwest who started prayerwalking for her community and got others to join with her as well. That kind of thing has happened all over the country. I find it completely remarkable how that book resonated with others with just a simple concept: pray for what you see.
DW: Nice! Do you have any unique writing habits or rituals that you go through before sitting down at the computer?
JM: Haha! I was thinking just yesterday that I should do a series of Facebook videos about my ADHD tendencies and how they interrupt my writing stream. Because I’m on the West Coast, I answer emails, social media, and messages first thing—because my publishers are on the East Coast, as are many of the media connections. Then I do my daily reading in my Bible. I read through it each year and journal-write the scriptures in a Bible that I will give to the next grandkid (we have 10 so far)—so I start my day by doing that.
I post a daily “Prayerwalking in the Bible” meme based on my reading and do other posts on social media. That usually takes up my full morning, so I don’t get to actual writing until the afternoon. Well, “writing” is a loose term here. That includes doing laundry, packaging up books for the mail, starting the dish washer, moving the sprinkler, running to the post office, mowing the lawn, sweeping the sidewalks and patio, and surfing and shopping online (there are LOTS of birthdays in our big family). There are way too many distractions at home, but actually I tend to turn in books early.
DW: Love the idea about passing your Bibles to your grandchildren. Great idea. Apart from writing, what hobbies or past-times do you enjoy?
JM: I love to have people in my home—either for a simple glass of iced tea, a meal, or an overnight. We have lots of room now that the kids are nesting elsewhere. I like a good walk but I love a hike in a new place. The Sierra Valley is the largest alpine valley in North America, and the mountains that surround it cradle dozens of natural lakes, where Craig and I love to go kayaking. We’ve also been able to start traveling now and love seeing new places, with recent trips to Alaska, the national parks in the Southwest, and Hawaii.
DW: Great to hear about your hospitality ministry. I will be out dropping by with ten of my closest friends to check out your bunkhouse real soon. If you have bacon, we will be just fine. Do you have a life motto or Bible verse that guides you?
JM: My two life verses tie to the power of prayer:
“With man this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.” –Matthew 19:26
“I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” –Philippians 4:13
DW: Excellent. Tell us about what’s next for you? Any appearances, forthcoming releases, etc.?
JM: I’m currently working on a Bible study called Strength Training, which will be published by First Place 4 Health next year. Each of the ten weeks focuses on a person from the Bible who demonstrated a certain kind of strength. This is my second Bible study for First Place, which is a Christian organization that helps people find physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The first book was called Training for Success—a Bible study on the characteristics of Christ.
I love speaking and am very excited that Craig and I will be touring Israel this fall, where I’ll speak on prayer in the places where Jesus prayed. I can’t wait to stand in the places where my Lord lived, spoke, and prayed.
DW: Where can people learn more about you and your writing?
DW: Janet, we love First Place 4 Health. My co-author of Taking God to Work is good friends with Carole Lewis, long-time First Place 4 Health leader. Well, it has been a great pleasure having you visit. God bless you in all of your endeavors for Him.
Readers, thanks so much for joining us for this interview. It’s now less than one week until Taking God to Work is released. Check out our pre-sale at Amazon and most other on-line stores. Learn more at our website: www.takinggodtowork.com.
Click the cover image to read more on Amazon.