An interview with Janet Holm McHenry, the author of 14 books
Michael Ireland (Interviewer): Please tell me about your education, family background, and how you came to know the Lord.
Janet Holm McHenry: I am the author of PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline (WaterBrook, March 2001) and 13 children's books. I am a full-time high school English, creative writing and journalism teacher and hold a journalism degree from University of California, Berkeley. Formerly I worked as a reporter, wire editor and religion editor for The Manhattan (KS) Mercury. Craig and I have been married for 27 years and have four kids—two in college and two still at home. I have a very full life; just today I was helping my daughter, Rebekah, address wedding invitations for her and Ozzie's ceremony in June.
I grew up in a church and don't ever remember not believing in God. However, I had never known I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, though, until I saw the movie “For Pete's Sake” (a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association film) when I was a college sophomore. I asked Christ into my heart that night and was mentored faithfully through the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry during my college years.
MI: How and when did you get the idea to write about prayerwalking? What prompted this interest? Why write about prayerwalking?
JHM: God has changed me through prayerwalking. Before I started, just a little more than two and a half years ago, I was a physical mess. I suffered from weight gain, exhaustion and long-term depression. One day when my knees gave way, I decided I had to do something to get in shape. But I also knew that God had been calling me to a deeper prayer life for some time. I had tried to pray. I had lists that I'd pray over in the morning or at night. But it's hard for me to get up in the morning and concentrate. I'd quickly find myself snoozing or distracted. In fact, I'm really not a morning person, but I'm not an evening person either! I figure I have one good hour in the middle of the day—LUNCH!—and then I'm ready for a nap.
So I decided that I'd get up a little earlier and pray while I walked. It felt so good, that I kept it up, until now I pray for an hour to an hour and a half while I walk five days a week. I get up just before five and meet my Personal Trainer, Jesus Christ.
MI: What is the thesis of the book? How and in what ways do you develop this theme?
JHM: Prayerwalking is not just taking care of a prayer list while you get some good exercise. Prayerwalking becomes an opportunity to pray for your neighborhood, your town's businesses, and the commuters and others you pass each day. Your prayer closet expands as you head out your front door.
I realized this one day when I was approaching our local day care center in my little town of 1,200. I saw what I call a “Single Daddy's Ballet.” A young man in a pickup truck drove up to the center and parked diagonally on Main Street. He got out of his truck and walked around to the other door and picked up a little bundle in a blanket. As he did this, Cheryl, who worked at the center, drove up and parked next to him. She walked over to him, and as the young man handed his little bundle over to her, the little bundle said, “Bye, Daddy. Love you.” And I realized right then that God didn't have me prayerwalking only for my needs. He also had me prayerwalking to notice the needs of my community. So now, I don't consider anything a distraction to my prayer list—I consider those “distractions” reasons to pray. And this has given me a vision of how it may be possible to “pray without ceasing,” as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Maybe we can even take that attitude into our homes and our workplaces and the line at the bank. Maybe we can pray for anything and everything we see during our day.
MI: Why is prayerwalking such a hot topic at the moment? Why do you think this is? Why should Christians become interested and take part in prayerwalking? What are the goals and aims of prayerwalking and what benefits do you see?
JHM: I think there has been such a good response to the book, because it has met a need. We know we need to get regular exercise, and we know we'd like a stronger prayer life. I'm not always organized, but I am pretty efficient with my time. We just love the idea of multi-tasking—doing two things at once.
MI: Why do you think this topic is being followed by the secular culture? Please give examples.
JHM: A national bookstore chain bought up more than the entire second printing of PrayerWalk. I think that's amazing! And a contributing editor of Health magazine is writing a feature about my prayerwalk relationship with my town. I think there's a hunger for God. Many women's popular magazines are now featuring stories on prayer. We're learning, I think, as a people that we don't have all the answers, but that God does. Prayerwalking is a simple discipline—and it seems that God is honoring this simple way of meeting Him.
MI: What other books have you written? Is this latest book a departure from or a continuation of what God has had you write about? Why or why not?
JHM: My earlier 13 books were all for children—from board books for toddlers to first chapter books called the “Golden Rule Duo” to the “Annie Shepard Mysteries.” This is my first nonfiction book for women, but I've also written about 80 magazine articles, mostly for women, and most of my writing has to do with developing stronger relationships with God. My second nonfiction book will be out in June, "Girlfriend Gatherings: Creative Ways to Stay Connected" (Harvest House). Again, it's about developing or maintaining stronger, godly relationships.
I'm in the process of getting a website up. PrayerWalk is available through Christian bookstores, general bookstores and online bookstores.
MI: What makes your book on prayerwalking different for others on the same topic? Why should Christian readers buy and read your book on the subject?
JHM: I think Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick's book, Prayer-Walking: Praying On-Site with Insight, is a great book for those in church or other ministries who want to organize prayerwalk events. PrayerWalk is for the person who'd like to develop a regular, devotional discipline of prayerwalking. The three other books that involve prayer and walking or hiking that are available are for those interested in meditative, inward kinds of prayerwalking experiences. PrayerWalk encourages the reader to look around and pray for her neighbors and community.
I now feel a special heart bond with the mill workers in my town. I'd see them driving to work at the lumber mill or I'd notice the loggers heading out of town. I'd pray for their safety and that they'd see the wonder of God in their work and grow closer to Him. I think prayerwalking should get us out of the my-ness of our prayers and focused on the needs of others. Recently, after a hundred years of operation, the mill in our town closed for good. This has affected about half the families in my community. My heart is breaking for them, and I'm praying all the time for their needs. I encourage PrayerWalk readers to see the needs in their community and pray, pray, pray!
There are also lots of great practical tips in the book—on finding a prayerwalking partner, buying the right shoes, stretching correctly and finding time to meet with God regularly.
MI: Any other relevant information you would like to share?
JHM: I believe that prayer—whether through prayerwalking or your prayer closet at home—is just part of how you develop an intimate relationship with God. It's also important to faithfully study the Bible—if only so you know you're praying in His will. I'm very excited that I'll be doing a follow-up book with the publisher, WaterBrook Press, called Daily PrayerWalk: Meditations for a Deeper Prayer Life. That book will help the reader connect important Biblical teachings on prayer with his or her prayerwalk.
Author: Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent. Used with permission from ASSIST News Service (ANS)