Prevail: 365 Days OF Enduring Strength From God’s Word, by Susie Larson
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
The devotional is form of book whose appeal is obvious from the large number of them that I have in my collection that I have reviewed over the course of the years . In some cases, as is the case with this book, it is easy to recognize the appeal of a book without necessarily understanding why it is that the author did not attempt something more ambitious than a devotional. Given this particular work and what the author has to say in it, it seems that the author faced a great deal of insecurity about being taken seriously as an author. This is lamentable but also not very uncommon, as it is hard to recognize the extent to which one has something to say as an author. It is awfully uncharitable to be harsh on a book because the author lacked the confidence to tackle something more ambitious even if it could have been achieved given the materials included here, and perhaps if this book is successful that it will encourage the author to try her hand at a more demanding genre than the devotional, even if this happens to be a pretty good devotional.
As is the case with a book of this kind, a 365-day devotional, the book consists of a large number of very small sections that are all exactly one page long and have a standardized design. In this particular case, the format numbers the days in a normal Gregorian year, gives a title to each devotional, includes a single verse that is organized according to the order of the normal Protestant Bible, then contains a longish single paragraph discussing the author’s thoughts on the verse and why it hits her particularly hard. Some of these involve books she has read, including Bible commentaries, but some of them deal with the personal experiences she has had where she has faced her own struggles with insecurity as well as her own interests in leadership and ecumenical action. After this there is a learn section that involves additional reading for the reader, a suggested course of action to take for the reader in order to help further spiritual growth, and a short prayer for the reader to give that matches the theme of the daily devotional. Besides this the book begins with a table of contents that shows the devotionals by their subject matter as well as a short introduction.
In reading a book like this, it is striking to see which parts of the Bible are emphasized and which are not. It is inevitable, and certainly the case here, that the New Testament is overrepresented relative to the amount that it takes up in the Bible, which is all to be expected from a book by a mainstream Christian who is going to be a lot more familiar with the New Testament than with the Hebrew scriptures, it must be admitted. It is also telling that this book makes a great many references to other works. This demonstrates at least a couple of things. For one, it is yet more evidence of the author’s timidity and desire to receive the reflected credibility of the sources that she uses in the book. In the main this strategy works well, as the author has a great taste in other works which help to prove that she reads well and draws good conclusions about the struggle to prevail that we face against that which would keep us down as Christians. The author also has a great deal of success in this book speaking about her own experience, although this is a higher risk strategy in that the reader is not likely to know much about the author, as I did not when reading this book.
 See, for example (this is not an exhaustive list):