The Prayer of a Starving Preacher’s Kid (and Memoir Giveaway)

Margaret —  July 11, 2014 — 81 Comments

Let me introduce you to my friend, Emily. Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. Follow Emily on Twitter or Facebook.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I've invited friends to share their words in this space as we explore the mysteries of prayer during the Summer Bible Study.

Emily and Solange

by Emily T. Wierenga

I didn’t know I was praying.

All I knew was I was hungry. Sobbing into my pillow with my skin pulled tight across my rib cage begging the cotton, which smelled like the wind—because Mum hung our sheets on the clothes line strung across the skies of northern Ontario—to be normal.

No, I thought prayer was what I did at the very end of the night, in those final moments before falling into a sleep bloated with dreams of chocolate and sandwiches and cakes.

The long rote of a thing this preacher’s kid did which begged God not to send her relatives and friends to hell. It was a detailed list of names, and if I missed one it felt as though they were damned. And I put it off until the very end because this nine-year-old didn’t know God was love. She just knew life was as hard as the wooden church pews she sat on each Sunday morning.

But when the nurses told me at thirteen that I was a miracle; when they looked at this hypothermic girl whose braces showed through her teeth, whose hair was falling out in clumps, when they said Someone out there loved me, I knew then those nights of begging had been some kind of letter-writing to the sky.


Prayer isn’t a posture. It isn’t a please and thank you or a Hail Mary. It isn’t polite or tidy or a long list at all, but rather, a ragged sinner beating her chest crying out for a Savior.

Prayer is the created, calling out to a Creator.

And God meets us there in the beating of our chests, and I heard him in a field in Holland, nearly a decade later, where I was training for a six-month mission trip to the Middle East. I was sitting by a farm fence with my guitar, when I heard God for the first time, the grass rustling and the smell of wildflowers. I have called you, he said, to intercede for my people. They are hurting in Lebanon. I will show you their pain but not so you can take it upon yourself; only that you will intercede for them. Pray for my people.

It wasn’t so much a voice as a sigh—a deep, unadulterated sigh. Like my spirit had just lifted and descended, and the words with them. All of the sentences just falling around me—a message from heaven.

He speaks and we listen and we beat our chest and we forget, how much he loves us, until he reminds us.

And even as I returned from that mission trip, no longer eating again, and got married; even as I spent three years drinking twelve cups of coffee a day and skipping meals and getting addicted to sleeping pills; even as I found healing again and moving to Korea to teach English and then back to Canada, to take care of a mother dying from brain cancer, I prayed.

The guttural gasp of a girl missing home.

Because isn’t that all of us? Aren’t we all just children missing home? Longing to connect with a Father who runs headlong down the path, robe trailing in the wind, to greet us?

And even now as I hold my miracle babies—the two boys I was told I’d never have, and only prayer conceived them—I whisper His love over them, a love that sounds a lot like spikes being hammered into a cross, or the sobs of a nine year old girl who’s starving, and I sigh.

Because this preacher’s kid is no longer hungry.

No, she is so very, very full.


This week, we're giving away THREE copies of Emily's new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look.

Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents' rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere elseanywhere else. Her travels took her across three continents in buses, cars, and planes, across mountains and over deep blue seas.

What she hadn't realized was that her faith was waiting for her the whole time—in the place she least expected it.

Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a deeply personal story of the yearning we all share to be truly known, entirely forgiven, and utterly loved.

To win, click here to leave a comment on the original blog post at The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.

Congratulations to the winners: Hannah, Tracy, Molinda Bailey 

When is it easiest for you to pray? Hardest for you to pray?

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81 responses to The Prayer of a Starving Preacher’s Kid (and Memoir Giveaway)

  1. I already know and love Emily…. and I have her book 🙂 I just wanted say how much I love seeing 2 gifts to the Kingdom in the same space!!!!

  2. Such a beautiful post, Emily! I love the reminder that the cries of our hearts and souls are as deep (or even deeper) a form of prayer and conversation with God as the “formal” prayers we intentionally say. Can’t wait to read your book!

  3. I’ve seen Emily’s book around several blogs that I follow, and I am looking forward to reading it. I like what she says “Prayer isn’t a posture”, it so easy to get caught up in the motion, and also so easy to forget prayer or take it for granted.

  4. I heard about this book and immediately put it on my “To Read” list. I’d love to win a copy 🙂

  5. I’ve never heard of Emily before, but her book looks absolutely marvelous!
    I’d say it’s easiest for me to pray when I’m in a crisis; likewise, it’s hardest to pray when everything’s going good. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Maybe that’s just one of the reasons God will often bring us trial…to strengthen our prayer life…

  6. Molinda Bailey July 11, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Emily, Thank you for sharing part of your story. In once since we are all hungry, hungry for more of Him. Those hunger pains make us dig deeper into His word to fill us like only He can. No matter the struggles/disorders doesn’t it show we hunger for more? More of our creator? Your story, it is beautiful as a pearl. From the pain came a beautiful pearl. That’s you my sweet friend♡

  7. As a PK myself, I would love to read Emily’s story!

  8. The poignant look at a starving girl who prayed for others pulls at my heart. The story behind Emily sounds full of joy and sorrow. The Lord was her deliverer and protected her throughout her life bringing her into the fullness of joy when experiencing His love. I would enjoy this book to uplift my spirit.

  9. Been wanting to read this book as I suspect it will have something to say to me here in Mozambique.

  10. I purchased Emily’s book, and am almost done reading it. It is a wonderful book that I encourage you to read. If I win a copy, I will give it to a friend, because it will be a blessing for her. This post is beautiful Emily. I love what you say about prayer, and about God speaking to you in a sigh asking you to pray for others. You say that your 2 boys are the result of prayer. Yes, God does still perform miracles! You are so blessed to have your husband and 2 sons. God is blessing you your family. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us.

  11. Rebecca Tellez July 11, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Oh my this post resonated deep in my soul. I too have been lost and in deep pits searching for anything to take away the pain. I was in my 50s before I let Him in and now 15 years later, I am still finding out about Him and His amazing love. I

  12. Thank you, Margaret, for sharing some of Emily’s story. I loved the part she wrote about God allowing her to see pain & suffering, but not to take it on herself. She was called to intercede. What a beautiful story! I cant wait to read the book.

  13. Everytime I hear the word home I cry. I want to go home. I want to find home.

  14. I find it easy to pray when I am riding my horse, which was sold long ago, so now I find that I pray when I am in the car, radio off, mouth open to the Lord…praying a lot…all the way to Walmart. I find it the hardest to pray when I have so much to do, so much on my mind, and I know that is when I should be praying the most.

    • I LOVE your honesty here Kathy, and completely understand. I find it easiest to pray when I’m running… I love that you pray when you’re in your car. Bless you sister–keep sharing your heart with him. e.

  15. I’m not a preacher’s kid, and the farthest from home I ever was during my childhood was the 50 miles from our town to the Jersey shore, but I share so much of what Emily Wierenga felt growing up — even into adulthood.

    “Prayer isn’t a posture. It isn’t a please and thank you or a Hail Mary. It isn’t polite or tidy or a long list at all, but rather, a ragged sinner beating her chest crying out for a Savior.” How I wish I had learned that years ago!! How I wish EVERYONE knew this!

    Answer to your question today: Easiest for me to pray when I’m about to go under for the last time. Hardest is when everything is going just peachy. Or in front of others, like in a small group setting. Talking to the Lord is such an intimate thing for me, I feel awkward praying in front of a bunch of people, even when I know them well. It’s like having people stare at me while I’m making out with my husband. Sorry — weird, possibly inappropriate description, I know, but it’s the best way I can convey how I feel.

    Margaret and Emily — thanks for such a marvelous post with a much needed message for me today!!


  16. Thank you for the post. I find it easiest to pray when I’m alone in the quiet of the night. More times than not it is for the big issues. The every day mundane things, even though I find them challenging I find them more difficult to bring to prayer.

  17. Mariann Billings July 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    What an anointing on Emily for this generation! God Bless!

  18. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. After reading it, I have put her book on my “list” of books I want to read. Praying is something that I’m working to be better at. It’s so easy to pray when things are difficult, not going as planned, etc., but am trying to consciously pray when things are going good. I recently was commissioned as a Stephen Minister (totally out of my comfort zone) and prayer is a staple. I am trying to conquer my fear of praying aloud. That has always been a stumbling block.

    Blessings to both you and Emily!

  19. I would really be blessed to win a copy of this book!

  20. I find it easiest to pray when my back’s against the wall and there’s nowhere to look but up. When life is lovely and the laundry is folded and the chores are done and the cupboards and frig are full, I find it hard to pray. I want everyone to have what I have–a devoted husband who loves his family, a fabulous daughter who married an equally fabulous man who adores her and a stupendous son who deals courageously with autism. I want to fill everyone’s life with joy and that’s when I realize that I need to pray–to be girded with His strength and His unspeakable joy so that I can meet the hurting right where they are. I just started reading “Scouting the Divine” today. My husband is a certified beekeeper and these creatures–the honey bees–they simply wow me! So does their Creator.

  21. I thought I saw Emily’s name in our daily Bible study here these past few weeks, I didn’t know about her book!
    What caught me off guard, is how “Guarded” as women we all are! Yet, unless we speak out, search for that “Father & home where we finally find peace, the journey seems to have common “Threads” – I’m taken back to my own childhood where my longing for a father figure is where it all began. I learned about Jesus then
    in Sunday school, His love for children, and even me! He still resides in my heart, what i find is the
    way we are all hungry for connection,
    That is a common thread for which I am so thankful. It’s all about the pictures we see of Jesus with little children nestled at his feet. I have been changed inside out at the level of openess we are all sharing in our search in this Bible study and words written in loving novels. Forever blessed as my journey continues!

    • Yes, Mae! I am astounded by how many of us, as women, can resonate with the longing to be connected with our fathers and with home… Thank you for sharing sister. Bless you, e.

  22. I would love to win a copy! I think I pray best when I’m either in the car dragging through rush hour or right before bed, though I know this is an area I need to work on in my life. I get so busy and distracted and it takes trauma and despair to get me praying again. I don’t like that cycle. It’s one I’d like to change.

    • oh friend, you’re not alone–i think we all feel this way. and i wonder if God doesn’t know this and this, why he allows us to go through hard times, so we won’t stop needing Him? bless you sister. e.

  23. mongupp (@mongupp) July 11, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    It’s easiest for me to pray when im in crisis, suffering, lonely or depressed. It’s harder for me to pray when im tired, stressed or plain worn-out.

    • i agree, sister–i’m the same way. I’ve heard prayer described as exhaling us, and inhaling Jesus… which I find I can do, no matter what mood I’m in. Bless you. e.

  24. Simply breath taking!! I pray I win!!

  25. Emily has been a personal inspiration to me on my own Journey. I have read Chasing Silhouettes, and would love a copy of her newest book. I actually hope to someday have my own book published (it’s pretty much written, actually), I just don’t know how to go about getting it published.

    In any event, I would love to win Emily’s book. She is such an amazing author, woman and human being.

    ~Amy 🙂

  26. I would love to win. The blog post was so thought provoking.

  27. I find that when I’m most likely to pray, I’m also the most likely to fear God’s response to my cries… it’s those times when I’m hurting, or confused, or seeking wisdom and direction. I trust the Lord with my life and I know He has the best plans for my life… but… you know when that little tiny inch of your heart starts saying… “what if God…”, doubting that He DOES have my best interest at heart. His thoughts are definitely higher than mine, and that is why I need him every hour! Would love to win and read this book!

  28. Your story-your heart-your deep yearning for a God of love is so raw and beautiful. Your book, Emily, is the next one on my list of must reads because the reality is that we are all seeking and also running at the same time. Thank you for being so vulnerable in sharing through your words. Blessings, Mary

  29. I loved reading your blog article. Thanks for sharing it. I would have to say that it is easiest for me to pray during extreme times: when I am feeling so thankful because my life is going so well and I really feel His blessings, and then during The extreme opposite when I am fighting to feel thankful and really feel discouraged and tired I find it easy for me to turn to prayer.
    The hardest times for me to pray is in front of others. I really struggle with this.

  30. Melinda Lancaster July 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    It seems easier for me to pray for other people than it is for myself.

  31. I am looking forward to reading your book.

  32. The book sounds amazing!

  33. Beautiful. Can’t wait to read more!

  34. Its easiest for me to pray when I’m really focused on worship and choosing to trust him. I think its the hardest when I just spend time thinking about all my problems.

  35. This line—beautiful! I had to catch my breath after I read it. Sounds like I need to add this book to my must-read list.

    “Prayer isn’t a posture. It isn’t a please and thank you or a Hail Mary. It isn’t polite or tidy or a long list at all, but rather, a ragged sinner beating her chest crying out for a Savior.”

  36. Lorrie Farnsworth July 12, 2014 at 7:22 am

    It’s easiest for me to pray when I am in trouble and under pressure. For example, when I’m in heavy traffic on the interstate and it starts to rain hard, I have to pay attention to road signs, but I can’t see them well. Another example, when I have had bad news (like: my brother had another stroke) and I feel helpless.
    It’s hardest for me to pray when I am comfortable, distracted by all kinds of potential pleasures and mistakenly think I am content & satisfied. But I know that I am really only satisfied when I am fully aware of Jesus with me.

  37. I am always amazed at how beautifully and eloquently Emily shares the good and painful memories of her life – all wrapped in a Savior’s love

  38. How weird that I am reading 3 non-fiction books and am adding this one as my 4th soon. I suppose this will be more beneficial than fiction 🙂 thank you!

  39. Prayer for me is foremount in my heart when there are roadblocks or deep valleys in my life. Usually then dependent on the Lord moment by moment in prayer. I confess when things are going smoothly, I am not in prayer as much.
    Thank you for the post. I once again realize what I am missing today.

  40. This book looks amazing! It’s easiest for me to pray when I’m in trouble or I think other people are behaving badly. It’s hardest for me to pray when I’m comfortable or when I am the one that needs to change.

  41. It is funny how God talks to me! My husband and I were just discussing family members today. I commented on their readiness and how it effected them and all of those around. The need to be loved and to be known. So many children are broken because of parents bad choices. But it is a cycle that God’s love can break! God can heal their hearts and fill them. He’ s what they actually need and he is the only one who can make them whole. I loved reading this story tonight. It gives me hope for others. I would love to win this book to give to them! Thank you for sharing.

  42. Praying has always been hard. I have known
    Jesus nearly my whole life. But did not know this God of love wanted a relationship with me, and it is taking time to lose the rigidity of early religious training to feel the joy of a close walk. I am praying for resting in His love and grace…less fear and more running toward the Lover of my soul. Thanks for the encouraging words.

  43. i could feel the deep pain of the writer in all her own thoughts that she translated into written words. i would love to read this book. where can i get a copy?

  44. i could tangibly feel the pain in the author’s written words as they moved right off the page into my heart.

  45. This touched my heart…Prayer is something I struggle with because “talk like you’re talking to a friend just made things more scary so formulaic prayer to get the spotlight off of me became a way of life for a long time in front of people…

  46. I enjoyed this post and the video along with it. It reminded me of my high school years of dealing with an eating disorder. I am grateful that I’ve made it through and I am glad to have met a friend who has dealt with anorexia. We both overcame and today we inspire and encourage each other often. I’ll share this video with her.

  47. Rebecca Jeffries-Hyman July 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Would love to read this! Beautiful Post!!

  48. God is so infinitely good and merciful God that healed Emily’s young body so that she might know the joy of motherhood.

  49. Would love to win a copy of this book.

  50. Breeann Villarreal July 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I would love to win a copy of this book. I can’t wait to read this part of your story Emily! I recently found your blog. I love the comment about prayer being a posture. It resonates deeply with me, probably because for a large part of my life, I don’t take that posture. Still struggling to give up my controlling nature! Thanks Emily for the post!

  51. This book resonated with me when I first heard about it at my previous job a few months ago. Sounds like a beautiful and touching memoir. Commenting from just a few hours north of Emily in Edmonton!

  52. I’m reading Atlas Girl right now on my kindle and loving it! Beautiful story! Thank you for including me in the drawing. Would be happy to share this wonderful book with a friend.

  53. Thanks for the chance to win!

  54. I’m going into my sophomore year of college and have battled anorexia for 4 years. Now- unlike my first “recovery”- in truly surrendering to God. I’d love to read this book as another encouragement in this journey with Christ.

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