Our guests today have experienced the power of prayer in their lives and want to share with others what they can gain by talking to God. Holly Shivers is the author of I Can Learn the Bible and I Can Learn to Pray. Holly has served as a staff wife for over a decade at Prestonwood Baptist Church, where she stays involved in women’s and children’s ministries. Holly is passionate about encouraging both kids and adults to communicate with God through prayer. Erin Lundmark is a wife, mother and business owner. During a standard physical Erin received some devastating news—the diagnosis of stage 4 colorectal cancer and was given just weeks to live. Erin shares how she faced this news and how her relationship with God and the prayers of others carried her through this difficult time.
The Power of Prayer: Holly Shivers & Erin Lundmark – Jesus Calling Episode #100
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Our guests today have experienced the power of prayer and want to share with others what they can gain by talking to God. We welcome author Holly Shivers and cancer survivor Erin Lundmark to the show. Holly Shivers is the author of I Can Learn the Bible and I Can Learn to Pray. Holly has served as a staff wife for over a decade at Prestonwood Baptist Church, where she stays involved in women’s and children’s ministries. Holly enjoys contributing to various writing projects and ministry blogs but is most passionate about writing to kids. She shares about how she encourages both kids and adults to communicate with God through prayer.
Grateful For Community
Holly: My name is Holly Shivers, and I am the author of I Can Learn the Bible and I Can Learn to Pray. I have been married for 18 years to my husband David, and we have four children ages 15, 13, 10, and 7.
I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was raised in a wonderful church there. I was a pastor’s kid. And it’s funny, I hear a lot of people talk these days about being a pastor’s kid and the difficulties that can come along with that. And many of those kids feel as though they’re in that fishbowl or that they’re held to a higher standard, that people are watching them all the time. And I’m really grateful my sister and I, the church we grew up and down in Fort Lauderdale, it was just such a community. It was such a family. I truly felt like everyone was for me and gave me space to grow up and learn and make mistakes. And just so many faces even that come to mind right now of people that invested in my life spiritually growing up, and so I’m really grateful for that community.
“I truly felt like everyone was for me and gave me space to grow up and learn and make mistakes.” – Holly Shivers
Realizing How God Sees Me
I can actually trace back to one memory that I believe an experience I had that set me on that pathway and my own journey of prayer. And that was when I was around the age of five or six, and I was given a ring that was just very special to me. It was really the first thing that I had owned that was valuable and that was mine. And it had a birthstone in it, a little purple stone. I remember exactly what it looked like because I would stare at it all the time.
One day, I was outside playing with a friend. And as you can, imagine doing cartwheels and running around, I lost my ring. I noticed it wasn’t on my finger. I was very upset frantically searching throughout the yard with my friend, and reluctantly walked back in the house to tell my mom. [I] wasn’t really sure what she was going to say, but immediately—instinctively—her very first response to me was, “Let’s pray about it. Let’s pray about it, Holly.”
We walked back into the yard. I knelt down, and I said a simple little prayer. I don’t remember the words of the prayer I prayed, but I do remember opening my eyes and looking down immediately after I said amen and seeing something purple, kind of shimmering down at my feet.
And what’s interesting to me about this memory is not that God answered the prayer, not that I got my ring back. What impacted me so much in that moment is that that is really the first time that I remember tangibly feeling the love of God for me. I didn’t walk away from that experience thinking, Well, this is really cool: God is like a slot machine, or you know, Whatever you ask for, He’s going to give it. And so I’m going to start asking for a lot of things. That never even entered my mind.
What I walked away from that day realizing was that God sees me. Here I am, this little child in this huge world. And here He is, the creator of the universe and the maker of the stars. And He heard my prayer. And that resonated with me even as a child: that God hears me when I pray to Him. And so I think that truly gave me space, and a comfort zone, and boldness in my ability to go to Him and to talk to Him throughout my day and bring my prayers to Him, just knowing that He was listening to me.
Relationships Thrive on Communication
My passion in this season of my life is writing to kids and taking those simple truths of Scripture and putting them on a level that they can understand. If you’re going to know someone, if you’re going to have a relationship with anyone, it’s important that you have communication. So while God’s Word is primarily the way that He communicates with us, prayer is, of course, the way that we communicate with God.
“If you’re going to know someone, if you’re going to have a relationship with anyone, it’s important that you have communication.” – Holly Shivers
And so two simple tools to use: I Can Learn the Bible, just a scripture memory tool to get God’s Word inside of our kids and to teach them to understand His truth and hear from Him. And then I Can Learn to Pray: just a tool to teach our kids the importance of talking to God and in growing in their knowledge of Him and their relationship with Him.
Make Time for What Matters Most
I have friends and adults who have spoken to me about their struggle with prayer in their adult life, just feeling overwhelmed with the whole idea of it. I know, for me, I’ve gone through seasons of dryness and my own prayer life. And I think we do that maybe for a couple of reasons. I think, one, we are overwhelmed with the idea of prayer maybe because we feel like we’re not doing it right or we’re not doing it enough. And I know that’s been my experience.
And my temperament, my personality is often that if I don’t feel like I’m doing something the exact right way and I don’t feel like I’m doing it enough, which certainly is the case a lot of times with prayer, then I’m just going to set that the topic of prayer on the backburner. And I’m going to move over here into the areas of my spiritual life where I feel like I’ve got it down, and I’m going to focus on my writing, or teaching, or whatever it is and just push this over to the side a little bit.
I feel like we oftentimes just think about the things that are urgent in the moment, the boxes that we need to check off for that day. And so easily those things just jump ahead of our prayer time because they’re a priority, because they’re tangible things that we can do to check off those boxes.
And so I think about that passage that Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower, when He talks about the one seed that fell. And it says, “The cares of the world choked the Word out of it.” And I love that phrase “the cares of the world.” The worries and everything that happens throughout our day oftentimes just get in the way and get in front of our face. And so we’re not as careful in our discipline to be praying. And so I think those things certainly keep us from praying.
I like to think about all the passages in Scripture where Jesus is taking us back to the child. And I love that. In Matthew 18, He tells us that we need to have the faith of the child or we won’t enter the kingdom of God. In Matthew 19, He says, “Let the little children come to me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” He’s always bringing us back to that simple, childlike faith. And I think back to that little girl laying in the grass, looking up at the blue sky, just talking to God. And I truly believe that’s what He desires from us most.
Prayer Is a Learned Skill
I believe as parents, we can set an atmosphere in our home and create opportunities for our children to know God on a deeper level through of course God’s Word and through prayer. And so that’s how these books came about.
“As parents, we can set an atmosphere in our home and create opportunities for our children to know God on a deeper level through of course God’s Word and through prayer.” – Holly Shivers
I specifically wrote the children’s devotional I Can Learn to Pray with the hopes and desire that families would be able to walk through this devotional together and begin a journey of prayer together as a family. I think that’s so important. And we talk a lot in this devotional about why we pray, why it’s so important to pray, and then how to pray. Jesus was very clear in Luke 11. He was off praying by Himself. He came back, and one of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
So we learned from that Scripture that prayer is learned. And there’s so much in the Bible and so many biblical principles we can learn about how to pray. And so we talk, first of all, about “wow prayers,” which are prayers of praise. I believe it’s so important to teach our kids about the character of God. I think we talk so often about the great things He has done, which we should, and all of those things are important in the Bible stories we tell. But I also believe that it’s so important for these kids to know how loving God is, how kind He, is how good He is, and really truly learning His character.
“It’s so important for these kids to know how loving God is, how kind He, is how good He is, and really truly learning His character.” – Holly Shivers
I love hearing from families who are using I Can Learn to Pray as a devotional with their kids and just hearing stories of how it has impacted their family. And one thing that really seems to resonate for families is hearing siblings pray for each other and with each other. I think that’s so neat and not something that often naturally happens in the course of a day, when siblings are going to choose to pray together or for each other. And so it really helps create a spiritual bond within that sibling relationship.
And then secondly, I’ve heard from parents who truly have felt impacted by the devotionals they’re reading and their own life and it’s impacted their own prayer lives. And I think that happens often as well. And I know it has happened for me, a lot of times, in the early mornings. And as the kids are hustling out the door getting ready for school, we will read a brief devotional from Jesus Calling for Kids.
“Stay with Me a few more minutes.”
As a family we love reading Jesus Calling for Kids in the mornings before our kids rush off to school. It’s filled with so many great reminders and truths from God’s Word. And one thing I love about this book is that it’s so great for that child that may not be on the level yet that they can sit down and open their Bible and read a passage of Scripture and really spend that time alone with the Lord. And so it just meets them right where they are with truth from God’s Word and mostly just an overall sense of how much He loves them and how much He’s there for them.
And we’ve recently read one passage that I love that I would love to share with you today. It’s called “Stay with Me.”
And the passage of Scripture here is Ephesians 2:10, and it says:
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he has planned for us long ago.”
“Spend more time with Me. I know today is a busy day and you have so much to do, but stay with Me for few more minutes. I want to enjoy your company. I also want to prepare you for this day.
“Great athletes take time to think carefully about what is ahead—going through it in their minds before they move their bodies. In the same way, sitting quietly in My Presence prepares you for the day ahead for the good things I planned for you.
“Only I know what will happen today. If you don’t let me prepare you, you may get tired and feel like giving up. Rest a moment with Me—and then we’ll have a great day together.”
“Even in the midst of you know doing whatever I’m doing.” I realize that was really for me: Thank you, Lord. That was for me, not so much for them today. And so I think that’s so neat because ultimately truth is truth. And whether you’re speaking to a roomful of seminary professors or a little 4-year-old girl kneeling at her bed, it’s all truth. It’s all truth from God’s Word. And so that’s why it speaks to all of us. And it changes all of us, ultimately.
Don’t Worry. Just Start.
For someone struggling with the concept of prayer, I would say first and foremost ask God to give you that desire to pray. Ask God to play it in your heart a desire to know Him more and to pray. So often I think we do what we want to do. And so ask God to give that to you. And learn to know Him more through through the time of just talking to Him and speaking with Him.
Secondly, I would say if you would like to begin your journey of prayer life, simply just pray. I think so often we talk about prayer, and we study the topic of prayer, and we read books on prayer. We tell other people often, “I’m praying for you.” I think if we actually spent time in prayer as much as we did talking about prayer, it might be very different in terms of our spiritual life.
“If we actually spent time in prayer as much as we did talking about prayer, it might be very different in terms of our spiritual life.” Holly Shivers
And so I think that’s important just to get started. Don’t worry about how you’re doing it—just talk to God. And certainly all of us, throughout the course of our lives, in the course of our day, have anxieties and worries that come before our minds and our hearts. And so training ourselves to immediately take those to the Lord and talking to him in prayer.
Also I think of course it’s important to get away with God and find a place where you can spend time with Him by yourself, just alone, really focusing on that intimacy with the Lord—that really comes with your time just being alone with Him. And so I think all of this things are so important. But but mostly, just get started. Just jump in and dive in.
Cancer Survivor Erin Lundmark
Narrator: Our next guest is mom, wife, and cancer survivor Erin Lundmark. As Erin and her family of five prepared to adopt, Erin underwent a standard physical that revealed some devastating news—Erin was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer and given weeks to live. Erin shares how she faced this news, and how her relationship with God and the prayers of others carried her through this difficult time.
I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania. I had a very idyllic life as a child. My grandparents were only a few blocks apart, and my parents and brother and sister and I didn’t live very far from them.
Most of my summers were spent at my grandparents house, and that’s kind of where I was introduced to church. I was baptized in the United Methodist Church, attended a Presbyterian church for a while, and now have been back to the United Methodist Church again.
I went to college in Toledo Ohio, the University of Toledo. That was a time in my life where I didn’t go to church, and I missed it.I kept thinking to myself, I should go, I should go, I should go. And I just never did.
And then I met my husband the summer between my junior and senior year in college. So we’ve known each other since we were 21, and then got married at 23, as soon as we graduated. We started our family not long after. I had my first daughter when I was 24, and then I had a son at 27, and then my third son 29. So I’ve got three kids that are all teenagers now. The oldest, my daughter, is now 20 and she’s at the University of Georgia.
A Standard Physical Is Anything But
My husband and I were looking into adopting a teenager out of the foster system. And there’s a long process called a “home study” that you go through in order to to adopt a child. I mean it is a long process. But in it somewhere, you have to get a physical. So for me, I had put that off, and one of my last steps of it was to go get my physical.
So when I did go to my doctor, you know, I’m laying there and we’re going through all the questions because I had that very, very, very active lifestyle. I worked out four days a week. I knew for a fact that I could run circles around some of the Atlanta Falcons football players because I worked out with them.
So when I went to my doctor’s visit, I didn’t anticipate anything wrong because I was still, up until that point, four days a week crazy . . . not quite CrossFit, but that similar to that kind of workout, where I was lifting pretty heavy weights and running and doing sprints. And so I was like, I am healthy.
But as my doctor presses on my abdomen, I was like, “Oh, that kind of didn’t feel very good.”
So she says to me, at the time, “Well, you’re 42, so it’s probably your gallbladder. Let’s go get an ultrasound of your gallbladder and see what’s going on.”
They scheduled the ultrasound on Monday. And as soon as the tech put the little wand over my liver, she says, “Oh! Have you had cancer before?”
And I think I sat straight up and I said,”No, no. Why? Why are you asking me that?”
And she tries to cover very quickly and says, “Oh, no reason. Lay back down.”
So she keeps doing it. And she says, “Well, I can tell you it’s not your gallbladder.”
And I’m like, “Well then, what is it? What’s going on?”
She just sends me on my way. I have to wait a few days, and they call me back in for an MRI. The results come back: I have multiple metastatic masses on my liver, or what appear to be metastatic masses on my liver—meaning that it looks like there’s cancer on my liver, but that’s not the main source. They have to find where the main source of it is. So I have another pet scan, which ends up showing that it’s colorectal cancer.
“A Doctor Can’t Tell Me When My Time Is Up.”
So I go to my first oncologist appointment at this hospital, and the woman kind of walks in with this attitude towards me of smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em. So she says, “We will sign up for hospice care. We’ll get your kids in hospice care. There’s not really much I can do for you.”
That’s not what we expected. My husband and I expected to walk in and hear that we would have a year of treatment and and be done with this, maybe some surgery and be finished and go on with our lives. We had no expectations of hearing that there was nothing that they could do for me.
“We had no expectations of hearing that there was nothing that they could do for me.” – Erin Lundmark
I walked out of that appointment, and my husband had to go finish up some paperwork. I get on the phone with my pastor right away, and [I’m] just sobbing and sobbing and sobbing, and telling him what’s going on. He’s telling me not to worry and that it’s not in my hands, that this doesn’t mean anything and a doctor can’t tell me when my time is up.
I realized at that point that I didn’t believe in what she was telling me. She was not God. She couldn’t tell me when my time was up—only He can.
So I was going to live, and I was going to live my life to the fullest. All I kept saying to everybody, from the first doctor to whatever, I just kept saying this: “I have too much left to do. I have things to do. I have too much left to do for this to be the end of my story.”
So my husband and I decided that we were going to go get a second opinion. So we went to Mayo Clinic—well, we went to Emory first, here in Atlanta, to Winship Cancer Center and got an opinion. And then took that to [the Mayo Clinic] in Minnesota and compared them. Mayo also decided that the Emory plan was the same as what they would have done, so I was better off just staying home and doing my treatment here [in Georgia].
So I start my treatment here, part of which is a clinical trial and go through all of that. And my very very first appointment down at Emory, sitting there in the waiting room, and this gentleman comes over to me and sits down next to me. And he looks me and says, “Is this your first time here?”
And I said, “Yes, it is.”
And he said, “Can I share something with you?”
And I said, “Well, of course you can.”
And he gets out his phone and he starts scrolling through his phone and he says, “I want to share 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4 with you.”
And I said, “Okay.”
“Praise be to God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort to comfort us in our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
And he proceeds to tell me that that’s his job down there, is to share the comfort that he’s received from God with other people. And I looked like I needed that comfort. So he came to me to share that with me.
His Strength Shows My Weakness
I kind of took that on too and thought, That sounds like a pretty cool job to have down here, so I’m going to do the same thing. Mine just happened to be in the way of handing out Jesus Callings. I would walk up to someone with one in my hand, ask if they had heard of it, ask them if they knew what it was. Go through it with them for a minute and give it to them.
I received my first Jesus Calling from a really good friend in our small group at church. It was right after I was diagnosed, and my small group was one of the first groups of people to know that I had been. And she brought me one, the little pink leather one, and she handed it to me and she said, “I wanted you to have this. This one is very well loved and very well prayed over. And I think you’ll benefit a lot from it. I think every day that you read it, you will find what you’re looking for and and what you need for that day.” And that’s exactly what Jesus Calling does, is give you what you need. Every day, no matter what, it just seems to know what you’re looking for.
“That’s exactly what Jesus Calling does, is give you what you need. Every day, no matter what, it just seems to know what you’re looking for.” – Erin Lundmark
My favorite Jesus Calling passage just happens to be March 7th. And that’s:
“Let Me help you through this day. The challenges you face are far too great for you to handle alone. You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face. This awareness opens up a choice: to doggedly go it alone or walk with Me in humble steps of dependence. Actually, this choice is continually before you, but difficulties highlight the decision-making process. So consider it all joy whenever you are enveloped in various trials. These are gifts from Me, reminding you to rely on Me alone.”
That’s my favorite because I also like to try to muscle my way through everything. And that one reminds me that it’s not my strength. His strength shows in my weakness. I need to let that weakness be okay so that His strength and His glory can show through it.
“His strength shows in my weakness. I need to let that weakness be okay so that His strength and His glory can show through it.” – Erin Lundmark
Compassion That Compels
I want people to see God’s light shining through me. Nothing makes me happier than that feeling. If someone even says that to me, that they see God through me, there’s nothing that excites my soul more than hearing somebody say that.
I already had a Jesus Calling [before] my first one that came in my Compassion Compels bag, so I gave it away. I took it down to Emory with me, and I gave it away.
What Compassion That Compels is: it’s a women’s ministry. We hand out bags that are full of everything that you would need for chemo from blankets, to mints, to a copy of Jesus Calling, to a journal, to a pen and a notebook to keep notes in for what your doctor tells you. That’s the general gist of what comes in there. Everything comes from a donation, and we assemble these bags. And they are for women with any type of cancer, anything, no matter what kind of cancer you have.
And you become part of this most amazing group. I have met some of the most amazing, strongest—I can’t think of another word to describe them—women through this group that I will always be friends with. Friends that, when I had my scans just this week on Tuesday and got my results on Thursday. I was on the phone with them Tuesday and Wednesday [and my friends were] saying, “I’m praying for you. I’m praying for you again. Just wanted to let you know that I’m praying for you.” We know that we can come together. We’ve got a group on Facebook that we know that if one of us has something going on, we just put it on there.
This group has been amazing to me. They’ve ministered to me in incredible ways. The things they do are just anointed and amazing, and more women need to be a part of this. So if you feel like you want to, you can Google “CompassionThatCompels.com” and make a donation because the only way that these bags get out to these women are through donations.
Or if you’re fighting cancer and would like a bag, do the same. Google “CompassionThatCompels.com” and click on the link to request a bag. And you’ll get your bag full of all your lovely stuff, and you’ll get someone written on it that has sponsored your bag.
Make a donation so we can continue to do this, and we can continue to uplift and love women going through cancer the way that they should be.
“It’s Not in My Hands.”
Narrator: Erin goes on to tell us what it’s like to have made it through a devastating diagnosis, and why she keeps on fighting.
Erin: I was just about a year into my diagnosis when my daughter graduated high school. My son sat there—because he still had two years left before he graduated from high school—he sat there and cried and cried and cried and cried.
And I said, “What’s the matter, honey?”
He said, “I’m just afraid that you’re not going to be at my graduation.”
And I said, “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I’m going to be at your graduation.
And he said, “You don’t know that. You don’t know that.”
I’ve been doing this battling for almost three years. I have switched chemos more times than I can count. I’ve tried tons of different treatments, both natural and medicinal. You name it, I’ve done it. But I’m still here.
My hope in all this, in the way I get through it, is it’s not in my hands. None of this battle is in my hands. I had to learn that a year into it, to let it go.
“None of this battle is in my hands. I had to learn that a year into it, to let it go.” – Erin Lundmark
Have those moments where you fall down and you break apart, but don’t stay there. Pull yourself back up, and just be positive and have a goal. Like with my son’s graduation, now my next one will be my next son’s graduation. But have a goal of something that you need to get to, and keep that goal in mind that, I need to get here. I need to get here. But being positive is going to do the most good. A cheerful heart is good medicine.
I don’t live my life as if I have cancer. I just live my life with cancer as part of it. I look at it as a chronic disease that I will have, hopefully, for the rest of a very long life that I might have to deal with. But I don’t base things in my life around having cancer.
“I don’t live my life as if I have cancer. I just live my life with cancer as part of it. “ – Erin Lundmark
A note since our podcast first aired: Erin is now home with Jesus. Erin was determined not to leave this earth without leaving a mark for Jesus and for those who matter to Jesus – the fatherless. Erin made a request to her friend Jennifer Warawa to honor her own mission of giving the gift of family to youth aging out of foster care without a family. To learn more you can go to Connection Homes.
Narrator: To find out more about how you can sponsor a compassion bag for a woman facing cancer, please visit CompassionThatCompels.org.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk to Jason Crabb, a GRAMMY and Dove Award-winning artist who has been named Gospel Music Association’s Artist and Male Vocalist of the Year. He shares about his life and what inspired his new record Unexpected, released on April 20, 2018.
Jason: When you’re talking about the Creator of heaven and the universe—the One that told the seas, “You can only go this far,” and created every flying bird and every star and put it in its place—that loves us like He does? When you’re talking about a God like that, you can expect some great miracles, some great things.