Book Review: If My People

If My People: A Prayer Guide For Our Nation, by Jack Countryman

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]

While it appears that Jack Countryman, about whom no authorial information appears in this book, is a pseudonym for someone who wishes to write without being known, it is unclear what about this book would draw negative attention. The book takes its title from the reference to 2 Chronicles 7:14, where God speaks to Solomon about the grim future of Israel and Judah and tells him that if God’s people humble themselves and pray to God and repent from their wicked ways that God will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land. Obviously, this verse is applicable to our contemporary society, and as this book is constructed around 40 very short devotionals that appear to have in mind a Lent-like state of 40 days of focused prayer on the matter of our nation’s spiritual well-being, it is clear that the author wishes for this repentance to occur, and that this attention is focused heavily on political aspects of our country.

In terms of its organization and structure, the book as a whole contains 40 days worth of prayer along with various other interludes that examine how American leaders, including several presidents, saw God’s word, ranging from such people as Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, MLK, and a few other less well known figures. Each of the 40 days of devotion take two very small pocket-sized pages beginning with a short prayer, then showing a verse or short passage on the first page, then the second page begins with a different verse or short passage and a short explanation of the need for that particular prayer. There are insets on Roosevelt’s four freedoms, the foundation of much of the contemporary push for socialism in the name of justice within our society, and also insets on why we should vote, a subject that many of the explanations discuss in one form or another. The book, as a whole, takes less than 120 pages to give 40 days worth of praying over the political fate of our country.

Yet although it is clear that this book is political in nature, there is much about this book that is unclear. The author continually harps on our need to pray for our country, for our sins, and to vote wisely, but no criteria are given for what it would mean to vote wisely. There are no specific sins that are repented, only a fairly general and vague conception of sinfulness that could apply to many types of sins. Does the author imply that our sins concern social justice, racism, the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable, hostility to immigrants? Are these sins matters of personal conduct, such as adultery, homosexuality, fornication, pornography, theft, wicked communication, and the like? The author does not say directly, nor give enough indication as to which sins or set of sins are meant, although both are certainly worthy of repentance and reflection, as some authors urge on us [1]. Instead of focused and targeted prayers about the spiritual state of our country, we get very vague prayers and explanations, of which the following one chosen at random stands as a representative sample: “The Bible teaches us to praise the Lord and share with others the blessings He so richly pours out upon us. He does not want us to hide our faith, but instead wants us to openly tell others of the blessings He graciously gives us daily. We in this country have been given many freedoms: [the] freedom to live where we wish, work for whom we choose, associate with anyone we want, and worship where we so desire. Therefore, let us be bold and share our faith openly as God leads us to (101).” There is nothing to disagree with here, certainly, even if the author places a high degree of importance on voting, far more than some people are comfortable with, but rather there is little to grab on to. If our nation is truly facing difficult choices and even the possibility of crisis, why not spell it out directly rather than speak in vague generalities. If our nation’s sins and impending judgment is so severe, why not pour out our thoughts in the manner of Amos and Hosea and any other number of godly people in times past, who made it vividly clear what sins they were lamenting in their stubborn and stiff-necked people. This is a book that was written with serious intent, and means well, but does not deliver the goods, mainly because it is not detailed or specific enough to show true repentance for our nation’s sins and an accurate knowledge of the dangers we face.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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