Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the joy of interviewing my friend, best-selling nonfiction author Janet Holm McHenry. If you’ve been in the church scene in the last two decades, you’ve heard of prayerwalking—and this is the lady who started it all! Today she’s sharing about the brand-new audio version of PrayerWalk—and a very special anniversary…
Welcome, Janet! Please tell us about your book, PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength and Discipline.
Challenge your body. Feed your spirit. Change the world. It’s time to exercise your prayer life. Learn how prayerwalking can give you increased energy, better health, and greater joy, as well as a rich prayer ministry that will impact your community—in this 20th anniversary audio version of the bestselling book.
It’s hard to remember that prayerwalking wasn’t always a thing—what inspired you to write this book?
More than 22 years ago I started the practice of prayerwalking, and it was life changing. I experienced relief from aches and pains, as well as a lifting of depression and fear. Then this year I decided to record the mp3 version to reach those who listen to audiobooks while they exercise or drive.
Walking and audio books are made for each other. While people listen to this book—while walking, of course—what do you hope they’ll take away from this book?
It’s my hope that a younger generation will get the vision to prayerwalk throughout their communities—praying for the needs of their neighbors, businesspeople, educators, government employee, and more.
I love this! So, what would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
My office actually is my ideal writing place. It’s a second-story room in our home with French doors that look out onto the Sierra Valley in northern California—the largest alpine valley in North America. My mom gave me her old oblong marble table that sits on black cast iron legs; it sits away from the wall so I can look out the doors to our gorgeous mountain valley. When I got the marble table, I renovated the look of the room to include white shiplap walls, tall black bookcases, a blue velvet swivel chair for my desk, and a cozy gray leather reading chair and ottoman that are so cozy that I can easily fall asleep if a book doesn’t keep me engaged. I also have blue vintage book covers on the shiplap wall behind my desk that create a fun backdrop for Zoom meetings and presentations. It’s a fun, comfy space with lots of antique details.
It sounds like an inspiring place to write. Now, when did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
At a women’s retreat near Lake Tahoe, the speaker challenged us to find a rock and sit on it until God spoke to us. I thought that was a bit contrived, but I found my rock quickly, and God soon said, “I want you to write for me.” I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I knew the call was real and it has stuck for the last 35 years as I’ve written 24 books and thousands of blogs, devotions, and articles.
That’s amazing! Why do you write nonfiction?
I had been writing children’s books when I started the practice of prayerwalking. I’d written board books, first chapter books, and mysteries for girls. Prayerwalking changed my life so much that a hunger grew to learn more about prayer. I began studying the Bible all the way through each year, looking for references to prayer. The most important thing about prayer, I believe, is that people understand it’s all about access, not answers. We have access to the living God. I love writing about that, because God can do the impossible through prayer.
So true. You must have many touching moments with readers—would you like to share one?
Readers tell me all the time that my book PrayerWalk has changed their lives. The most significant story, I think, was in a letter from a woman who was in a Connecticut prison. The book caused her to start prayerwalking around the prison, and she enlisted many others along with her. That has stayed with me—a visual of women inmates praying for others as they walked their prison perimeter.
That is such a beautiful image. Other than writing, what ministries are you involved in, and why?
I coordinate the prayer ministries at The Bridge Church in Reno, NV—the closest city to where we live in the mountains. I have a team that prays for leadership on Sunday mornings, another virtual team that prays for prayer requests, an annual group of prayerwalkers who pray for the schools prior to the start of school, and other prayer ministries. I also administer The Safe Place Prayer Group on Facebook and serve as Sierra County coordinator for the National Day of Prayer.
What do you read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?
I typically read nonfiction, but I was just blown away by Cheryl Bostrom’s first novel, called Sugar Birds. It’s a fascinating coming-of-age story with two young narrators—one done in first person, one done in third person. It’s very good.
That sounds intriguing! Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?
I formerly was a high school English teacher and academic advisor at our small, local high school in Loyalton, CA. When I wrote The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus, I referred to Jesus as my teacher in prayer and drew from my own examples in the classroom as a running thread throughout the book. What we do as nonfiction writers is a lot of direct teaching, and I feel my twenty-six years as a teacher help me convey abstract concepts through the use of analogies, figurative language, anecdotes, and other strategies good teachers use.
What are your hobbies or activities or passions outside of writing?
I love to host people in my home, and I also still love to teach, so last year I started hosting the Sierra Valley Writers Retreat. I just held my third in May and will be scheduling dates for the fall soon. I teach fundamentals about nonfiction genres, chapter structure, and more, as well as do all the cooking for four writers each retreat. It’s a lot of fun!
What a wonderful idea! So, what are you working on next? Please tell us about your next project.
My next project is the launch of Prayer School, which is a five-module, 21-lesson online masterclass on prayer, available through Teachable at prayerschool.teachable.com. The course is basically free, because the fee covers the three books for the course.