The Pray-ers (Crew Book Review)
I don’t often find the time to read fiction these days, so I was thankful for the opportunity to review a new book called The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles by Mark S. Mirza (published by CTM Publishing Atlanta). I was intrigued by the premise of the novel, namely, the power of prayer in the lives of believers and the role of both angels and demons as they interact with the human world. At 372 pages, I wouldn’t call this softcover novel a “light” read, but by using the medium of historical fiction, the author is able to convey a lengthy teaching on prayer in an entertaining manner without it getting dry.
The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles follows three mostly separate story lines, all taking place in different eras (although the same angels and demons are involved in each one).
In the 1st century, the book follows the journey of a young man named Thales, who is discipled by his uncle Epaphras (based on the biblical Epaphras, a leader in the church of Colossae), and those with whom he shares the good news about Christ.
The second story line follows the ministry of a 19th Century traveling preacher. A Northerner who feels called to minister in the south, Alexander Rich devotes his life to prayer and ministering to the people around him, from Confederate soldiers in the beginning of the book, to his neighbors in a small town whose gossipy ways could destroy his ministry as the book progresses.
Finally, in the current day, the book introduces the reader to a college track coach named Dale, who also leads the men’s prayer ministry at his church. He and his wife Margie have a powerful prayer life, and that guides them as they minister both in the church and at the college where they both work as they interact with students and other faculty.
The book jumps back and forth between these three eras. Throughout all three stories, the reader is privy to the workings of demons and angels who are assigned to thwart or help the Christians in their work for the Lord (with the same ones being present in the lives of the main characters across the span of history).
What I thought of The Pray-ers/Book 1 Troubles
To be honest, I had a hard time getting into the novel. The characters seemed exaggerated: the “Pray-ers” were too perfect to feel real, and many of the others they encountered seemed like caricatures. Consequently it took me a long time to warm up to them. By the middle of the book I was engaged enough to want to keep reading to find out what happened, though I found the ending lacking resolution. (Perhaps this is because the author has written a sequel, which should be released in the next few months.)
I’m normally a fast reader, but I found a few repeated distractions that slowed me down. The author, Mark S. Mirza, feels a strong conviction about not showing any respect to Satan or his demons, so he refuses to capitalize their names. I appreciate the sentiment, but by ignoring the conventions of English, I felt like it not only made it more difficult to read smoothly, it actually called more attention to those characters, which I’m sure was not his intent. I found myself skipping over (or at most, skimming) the passages about the demons because I prefer to read quickly and I found those sections frustratingly slow to get through because I had to really concentrate on where the names were.
The other thing I found distracting was the number of errors throughout the book. I kept having to stop a re-read certain “sentences” because they didn’t make sense the first time through. Most of the time when I went back over them I realized they weren’t complete sentences (or sometimes they were just phrased awkwardly or punctuated incorrectly). With careful editing this problem could easily be remedied.
There were many things I enjoyed about the book, however. I appreciate the Mirza’s use of fiction to share his message, and as long as the reader goes in knowing that this was his intent, the didactic tone will probably be acceptable. Throughout the book there are footnotes containing Scripture references for those who want to see the biblical basis for what they are reading. (That’s not to say I agreed with every bit of theology, but for the most part I felt comfortable with the Mirza’s interpretation and artistic license.) His notes at the back of the book are also helpful for understanding both the characters and some of the thoughts behind the writing of the book.
Overall, I would say The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles encouraged me in my own habits of prayer by modeling a lifestyle of continual prayer through the characters. It also reminded me to be more aware of the spiritual realm and the battle the is going on around us. If you prefer to read fiction books and are looking to grow in your prayer life, you could find this book to be both enjoyable and helpful.