Kansas City author and painter Polly Alice McCann launched her first prayer book, Pray Like A Woman, published by Light Shine Books, on August 6. The book takes the reader on Polly’s journey to learn how to be closer in a relationship with God. McCann shares authentic, unique experiences. The result, some might say, is Tiger Mother meets The Power of A Praying Wife–one persistent woman’s life journey through prayer.
McCann calls herself a prayer nerd. She has spent more than 30 years reading and researching prayer books. She shares answers to prayer throughout her life: from her childhood growing up in the Midwest; to moving with her parents and three siblings near Washington D.C.; deciding on a vocation in college in the Allegany Mountains; facing life as a newlywed as a pastor’s wife; and battling infertility, loss, unemployment, doubt, and divorce, then struggling as an artist to open an art gallery, create a community, and continue to write.
Polly’s personal prayer background started with reading a prayer book from her grandmother’s kitchen when she was very young. That led to more than thirty years of reading and research but noting that books written explicitly about how to pray were scarce. Her cousin asked Polly for help learning about prayer, but Polly couldn’t find just the right book. “I tried to answer my cousins' questions. I wrote 66 letters to friends–in a blog about art, writing, and prayer–while trying to find my voice. No one had a resource that could help them pray with down-to-Earth, everyday issues. In all, it took me a year to write the book during small retreats and two years to revise it,” says Polly.
“People need this book because despite being one of the only ways to commune with God, books on prayer are surprisingly scarce, awkward, or written with life examples only by men or the very wealthy and powerful,” states Polly. Some of her favorite reads include St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, Andrew Murray’s Christ in the School of Prayer, and Mark Batterson’s Circle Maker. She said, “We’re missing books about how women have connected with God in prayer. They are out there but hard to find. “But it’s not even women, but those who have to serve others or do many things at once and pray simultaneously; how those without money and power, or a big megachurch ministry, pray. How do you pray in a food line or at Walmart with your last five dollars? What if God’s pronouns keep you from praying? I try to address those issues, Polly says.
Polly shares simple, time-tested methods of prayer and a few new approaches. She turns myths about prayer on their head, proving that prayer isn’t selfish or magical; it’s not simply sitting still, hands folded and eyes closed, but prayer is a journey sometimes like lightning, or at times like walking in new shoes. It’s different every day.
When asked about the artwork in the book and why she started with hand-sewn collages to tell her story, she answered, “It’s embarrassing to write a memoir. I’m very private, and my faith is very personal to me. I started with art. But If you read this book, you’ll know more than my closest friends about my real journey...I’ve been writing poetry and making art to work up to this. Now, in this book, you have the whole thing. I guess my art and writing do the same thing: I want my work to help show the beauty of imperfection, meeting God’s grace that mends the broken-hearted.”
Faith and prayer run deep in Polly’s family. She is the granddaughter of a Baptist preacher, and two of her five cousins are pastors. Polly’s father, Stan Hixson, worked for a Christian publishing company in MN in the 70s before becoming a distributor known as Light Shine Books. The company closed briefly in the early 90s, only to become Great Ideas at themustard.com, one of the first online stores in an internet mall.
When she turned forty, she saw the local book stores closing and felt a crisis of faith. “I remembered my father and grandfather running Light Shine Books. They were so happy to host book parties and taco nights. They hauled around boxes of books, set up book racks, and talked to the store managers. They drove faith-based books to area grocery stores all over the Midwest like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. They had fun and felt like they were making a difference. I missed some of those simpler times. So, I honored their memory by writing a book like they would have sold–a story of my faith journey. I wanted to share my unique ecumenical point of view because I’ve been everywhere. I am surprised by the really warm reception the book has received.” says Polly
“The purpose of this book is to combat the myths that stop people from attempting to pray. The myths are that prayer is self-fish, magical, greedy, quiet, too long, repetitive, unlikely, or too much holding still. Worse yet, is that it’s only warm thoughts, mindless invisible thinking, random unkempt promises, or endless repetitive words to a God who’s too busy or too far away to hear you. However, there is still an incredible desire to reach God, to have help in time of need, and even more, to help people who are hurting. While misconceptions about prayer may stop people from praying, finding ways to combat those lies provides life-changing results,” says Polly.
What’s it about? Polly tells stories from real life, like working with migrant workers, standing in breadlines, to visiting hippie nuns. Polly shares her journey from budding college student to pastor’s wife, from single mother to small businesswoman, from writer to speaker, believing in God for both small and big miracles of the heart each and every day. “I combat the 12 myths that women believe about prayer. These meditations on the lives of women in scripture describe prayer in fresh, new ways. Read Joana’s story: Prayer is not being greedy and wanting more. It is a generosity of spirit; or Tabitha’s story: Prayer is not magic; it is a daily relationship with God that saves us from the death of our hopes and dreams. Each meditation includes a prayer so readers can pray along,” said Polly.
Readers will discover from these Biblical narratives and contemporary testimony that prayer is still alive, and they can rediscover hope that God hears them and even see answers. “Prayer is not just warm thoughts. Prayer is loud. It is moving around, dancing, singing, painting, talking, crying, meditating, walking, traveling, and more,” Polly says. In focusing on women in the Bible, polly shares a new emphasis where prayer is more about people and relationships rather than power and creativity rather than control; it’s about the journey over results. “Prayer in this world is a creative act. It’s as real as a brick wall and as hard as an iron table. But in our hearts, prayer is, more importantly, our relationship with a loving, creative Father God, and his dwelling spirit who guides us along our way,” insists Polly.
Pray Like A Woman is the first book in Polly Alice McCann’s “Pray” series. It will soon be in hardback this summer and later in audio with a possible podcast in the works. She asks friends to request it from their library so more people will be able to find the book. In the future, she hopes to complete two more in the series: Pray Like An Artist, and Pray Like Jesus.
Polly celebrated the book by hanging an art show at Grantham BIC church near Harrisburg, PA, and sales from the show will help launch the book and the new imprint at Flying Ketchup Press. To see or purchase the art, click here. Kansas City Book launch details are forthcoming. Photos below were taken by the artist and curator Geoff Iseley.