Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Prayer Letters Worth Reading-Elizabeth Givens
The Key to Writing a Prayer Letter that WILL Get Read
I remember arriving in the north of the Philippines about 20 years ago after a long day on bus, jeepney, and foot. I had hardly sat down at our friend's table when she slapped a letter down in front of me.
"Read this!" she said. "This is our last letter and I've gotten more response on this than any letter I've written in decades. What did I do?"
It only took a quick read to understand why people responded. Fay had told a story. Her husband was to speak at a gathering of tribal people and he got sick, so she went in his place. As I read, I could feel her concern on the trek that her language wasn’t as facile as her husband’s. I could smell the rice in the mountain paddies. The mud seemed to ooze through my toes as I crossed the river with her, and then I sat in the little clearing while she spoke and watched people’s faces as they hungrily drunk in her teaching of the Word. In short, she had taken me with her.
I'd read her letters before. They were accurate chronological descriptions of their ministry, but they were flat and dry. This couple was anything but flat and dry. This time she had invited her audience into her heart and allowed them to think, feel, smell, and walk with her. I didn't need to know what she did five days a week, or ten weeks a year. I only needed to go with her this one time and I grasped far more of what her life was like than pages of ministry details.
Today her letter would come to me on email. Unlike a full page for graphic design, now you have only a little window of space to grab the reader's attention. The beginning of the letter is vitally important. When you write, don't waste time on greetings and apologies. Jump right into the story. Tell a story first -- then follow up with schedules, prayer & praise, details.
What kind of stories? The best ones teach without preaching. I don't need a lecture on contextualization, but I'll read about why Kazak women feel comfortable with pillows and low tables, playing the dombre, and drinking tea as they learn the stories of the Old Testament. I want to hear how Hannah’s story brings tears to a gathering of Muslim second wives who are barren and why riding shot-gun to an archery contest with a bunch of vodka-swigging Mongols is core to evangelism.
I want reality. I want to smell what’s cooking in the hot oil at the market, listen to the lonely pathos in the voice of the woman you are trying to lead to Christ, hear the cacophony of the bells at the temple down the street or the call to prayer across the way.
I am guilty of writing rather dry, boring reports some months, but when I get a lot of response, it’s because there was a story.
~by Elizabeth Givens
Posted by Women of the Harvest Blogs at 12:00 AM