December 29, 2003
Professor's New Book on Unanswered Prayer
Whitworth religion professor Jerry Sittser is drawn to exploring the difficult questions of the Christian faith, questions such as "Why do we suffer?" and "How can we discover the will of God when the future seems so unclear?" For Sittser, the most troubling question of all is "Why doesn't God answer our prayers?" That vexing question became a life-and-death matter for Sittser in 1991, when, having prayed one September morning for the protection of his family, three of his loved ones - his daughter, wife and mother - died later that day when a drunk driver hit their car (Sittser and three of his children survived).
In his new book, When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer (2003, Zondervan), Sittser plumbs the depths of the question of unanswered prayer, a question that is on the minds of most praying people, Sittser says.
"In one sense, it is the question," Sittser writes in the book's prologue. "We often turn to God at our most vulnerable moments, when all seems lost unless God steps in. Why does God remain distant, silent, and hard when we call on him? If God doesn't respond when we need him most, then why pray at all?"
According to a Publishers Weekly starred review of Sittser's book, "To find an answer, he turns the question inside out and upside down: When our prayers go unanswered, does it mean we don't have enough faith, or have prayed the wrong way? What would happen if God answered all our prayers?
"His own eloquent and powerful musings are interspersed with thoughts from such classic writers as Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Tolstoy and O. Hallesby, and contemporary writers such as Jane Kenyon, Henri Nouwen and Leif Enger. Any Christian who has ever questioned the validity of prayer will find this to be a luminous book, full of vulnerable and venerable wisdom."
Sittser wrote When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer for those who have been disappointed by prayer and thus may be alienated from traditional religion or traditional religious answers.
"All of our abstract questions about God, questions that virtually every human asks sooner or later, suddenly become concrete, gritty and painful when our prayers - good, right, and true prayers - seem to go unanswered," Sittser says. "Who hasn't prayed about something that truly matters to them and not faced the problem of unanswered prayer? Nearly everyone has, however religious or irreligious. The disappointment and disillusionment that follow can be devastating. I wrote the book to address this very specific and difficult problem."
Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, states in a review that "The lessons that Jerry Sittser shares (in his book) are ones that he has learned in the deep places, in times of profound spiritual despair. This is a book for everyone who has ever wanted to argue with God about unanswered prayer. I know of no better guide to honest praying."
In addition to When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer, Sittser is the author of A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss (1996, Zondervan), which is in its 19th paperback edition, has sold more than 200,000 copies, and has been translated into Japanese, Korean and German. The book is used by small groups, book clubs, churches and synagogues, hospice chapters, seminaries, medical schools, and in college courses.
Sittser is also the author of The Will of God as a Way of Life (2000, Zondervan), which was reprinted in paperback in 2002 as Discovering God's Will; A Cautious Patriotism: The American Churches and the Second World War (1997, University of North Carolina Press); Loving across Our Differences (1994, Intervarsity Press), and The Adventure (1985, Intervarsity Press). He has also written many book reviews and articles for popular and scholarly journals.
Sittser is contracted through Zondervan to write a book on the history of Christian spirituality, which is slated for publication in 2005. The book, tentatively titled Water from a Deep Well, will address historical models of the spirituality of the early Christian martyrs, the desert fathers and mothers, pioneers missionaries, protestors and the Puritans.
Sittser earned his B.A. in chemistry from Hope College and his master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. After serving as a pastor and college chaplain for 10 years, he earned his doctorate in the history of Christianity in 1989 from the University of Chicago, where he studied under the dean of American religious historians, Martin E. Marty, and won the Javitts graduate fellowship award.
He has taught at Whitworth since 1989. Sittser speaks frequently at churches, retreats, conferences, and on college campuses. He has won the Most Influential Professor Award at Whitworth seven times. Sittser is also active as chair of Whitworth's Certification for Ministry program, which prepares students for entry-level jobs in churches and Christian organizations.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.
Jerry Sittser, professor of religion, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or email@example.com.