Bible Women - He Speaks, She Listens
by Laura Leathers
Back in the 70's a television commercial became very popular because of this phrase: "When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen." Today the same statement could be made about author and speaker Priscilla Shirer. When she speaks, you immediately find yourself listening with eager anticipation as she opens the Word of God and shares what she is learning. Her passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the Bible challenge the listener to personally know the Word.
Drs. Tony and Lois Evans named their second child after the biblical character, Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3). One can't help but wonder if her parents prayed and chose this particular name because of the vision they had for their daughter. The parallel between the two Priscillas is uncanny. Both are strong, competent women involved in discipleship, teaching, evangelism, and mentoring, as well as working with their husbands in ministry. Three years ago Jerry, Priscilla's husband, moved from corporate America to work by her side and be actively involved in the ministry.
Around the age of 18, Priscilla began working as a broadcaster for a local radio station. Recognition of her last name brought invitations to speak at various events. When she accepted the invitations she didn't know exactly what to speak on, so she simply shared what she was studying and learning from the Bible. The invitations continued throughout her college years at the University of Houston; she graduated with a degree in Communications. Additionally, she received a Master's Degree in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Priscilla is not only a gifted communicator, but an author as well. She has authored A Jewel In His Crown; And We Are Changed; He Speaks To Me; and written two Bible studies: He Speaks To Me: Preparing To Hear from God and Discerning The Voice Of God.
Just Between Us recently had the privilege to sit down with Priscilla for an interview in between her speaking sessions at a conference in Belzoni, Mississippi.
JBU: When did you become a believer?
Priscilla: I became a born again believer when I was a little girl. However, it was in my teen years when I focused on Christ and serving Him. When I went to college, I went a little bit astray; some of my actions did not reflect obedience in following Christ the way I should. After college, I made the decision to fully surrender and commit my life to the Lord. There was a real shift in my thinking of what Christianity was all about. I realized there was so much more to being a Christian than when I was a little girl, reading a verse a day to keep the devil away. The bigger picture was that He wanted to consume my life with the power of His presence and live through me.
Each new phase of my life, like being married and having children, I find there are new areas where I have to die to myself once again and enter a deeper level of being a Christ follower. It is allowing Him to live through me more and more by the power of the Holy Spirit. The motto of my life is to completely surrender to whatever He is asking me to do.
JBU: How do you find time to run a household and a ministry, study the Bible for speaking and writing endeavors, and still have devotions?
Priscilla: To be honest, things don't happen perfectly all the time. I am so grateful God is gracious! I have to make my quiet time a priority. A personal intimate time with the Lord has to be separate from my study time, but many times they overlap. However, I need to make sure my priority is not the message I'm supposed to give to other people, but what He wants to give to me. I may only have 10 or 15 minutes in the morning before I hear one of our boys call my name. Sometimes my quiet time may be at the end of the day. At other times, I find I have to give up sleep in order to spend time with the Lord.
Balancing our home life and ministry is always a juggling act for Jerry and me. At the present time Jackson, our oldest son, goes to Mother's Day Out two days a week. Our youngest son, Jerry Jr., goes to Granny's house during this same time frame. During this time we have five or six hours of quiet to accomplish the ministry work that needs to be done. When the boys return we can completely concentrate on our time with them.
I have had to forgo going out to lunch with my friends or some other extracurricular activities to make this possible. But, this has allowed me to have more free time to spend with Jerry and the boys.
Most of all, balance is made possible because God has blessed me with an incredible husband. Jerry does all of the real work. I get to study, write, and speak. He handles all of the phone calls, emails, speaking engagements, publisher meetings, and many other details, which come under the heading of business. Prior to the boys being born I handled everything, but when Jackson arrived, home and ministry became increasingly more difficult for me to balance. We were either going to have to hire someone or go with the Lord's plan, which He revealed was for Jerry to handle all of the details. It was a real step of faith for all of us, particularly Jerry because he had always been in corporate America. God really stressed on his heart that this was the ministry for this family. It is not me; it is all of us together producing the materials and going every weekend to minister to a group of women. I've been speaking for about 10 years, but Jerry and I have only been doing this for three years.
JBU: How are you teaching your children to listen to God?
Priscilla: I spend time with them in prayer before they go to bed. I simply pray over them, as they are quiet and watching me. I am trusting the Holy Spirit to use the words I pray over them and quote repetitiously night after night to ingrain into them who they are as His children. We also have a series of Bible verses for them to learn with hand movements and we quote these over and over again.
JBU: Did your parents do that with you?
Priscilla: I am sure they did! There are so many things they did that I am not aware of or don't even remember, but it is a part of who I am today. My parents were intentional about bringing God's Word into our life. For example, I can remember just before breakfast Daddy would make us have Bible study. My siblings and I would be thinking, "You've got to be kidding me!"
In the book He Speaks to Me, I have written the following dedication: "Daddy this is for you, for giving me a desire to know Him and to make Him known." It was the simplest way I knew how to convey my gratitude to my father for modeling eagerness to get in the Word of God. His desire and hunger to know the ways, the mind, and thoughts of his God has inadvertently spilled over onto me. I'm the same way now. I find myself with different versions of the Bible and study materials. This hunger came from watching parents who had a hunger for Him. I'm hoping our children will see the same thing in my husband and me.
JBU: You have such an awesome legacy. How do you handle being the child of a well-known pastor and well-known mother?
Priscilla: My parents always made sure when their four children were growing up that there was no pressure on us to impress the congregation. They always stressed the only person we had to please was the Lord. Additionally, they went out of their way to stress to others that my siblings and I were to be who God had created us to be. I believe this allowed us to be secure in who we were regardless of who our parents were. Still to this day they applaud and celebrate with us the things the Lord is doing in our lives. They encourage each of us in our different gifts, abilities, and strengths. I so appreciate this about them.
JBU: How did you and Anne Graham Lotz connect and how has she influenced your life?
Priscilla: Several years ago at the Christian Booksellers Association conference, Anne Graham Lotz walked up to me and began to quote Scripture over me. I don't remember all she said, but this I do remember. She said, "Your Daddy is who your Daddy is and my Daddy is who my Daddy is. The Lord has not called us to the same ministry as our fathers. Whether we minister to three people or to three million we are to do it wholeheartedly as unto the Lord."
Later she called and invited me to be a part of her Passionate Pursuit events. I have had the privilege to sit and listen to her teach during those events. It has been such an honor to be around this woman who exegetes the Lord Jesus Christ. She has been most gracious to answer my questions, pray for me, and give me advice on concerns I may have. She is truly a ministry mentor. I've learned so much from her, in particular the skill to present the message in a way that people understand it.
JBU: How does a woman develop a heart that listens to God?
Priscilla: Listening is a skill. Yet, you don't learn it in high school or college, or in seminary. We live in such a fast-paced society; it literally pulls us in the exact opposite direction of taking time to listen. A woman's heart has to be cultivated to learn to listen. She must discipline herself to sit in stillness and wait on the Lord; wait to see what it is He has to say. This simply means that when I pray I don't just get up and walk away when I'm done with my "list." I say, "Okay, now Lord it's your turn." I sit silently and wait to see if the Holy Spirit will bring someone to my mind I am to pray for. Perhaps, through worship music I am playing, there is an attribute of God I am to focus on. As I sit in the presence of God there may be a sin that I need to deal with and it would not have occurred to me had I not been focused on listening to Him. When you discipline yourself to come into the presence of God, you know going into the secret place, He is there. He is the one who opens our ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.
It never occurred to me that this was a practical thing to do. I always thought about listening to God in theory, but never practically. I used to believe that prayer was all about me doing the talking. On the contrary, prayer should be more about my mouth being closed so I can hear.
JBU: How has ministry to women grown and changed since you first became involved in women's ministry?
Priscilla: I think the biggest change I can see is that women want more than an emotional experience, more than door prizes and fun, and makeovers. Please don't get me wrong, all that stuff is fun. I'm all for it! But they no longer want to sacrifice the meaty truths of Scripture and having an encounter with God for those things. There was a time when a group of women would get together and have a great time filled with food, fellowship, and fun, but no one actually saw God. However, when they got home they realized that the conference was fun, but their life was still the same and they weren't changed. I think women are done with that. The bottom line is women want more of God's Word.
JBU: Where do you see women's ministry ten years from now?
Priscilla: Going deeper to know the Word of God - fluff is not enough. I hope the trend that I have seen continues with our Bible studies filled with women who have a hunger and thirst for God's Word. Never before have we seen group Bible studies this prevalent throughout our country. Women are coming together to hear God's Word corporately, but more importantly they are taking it into their private lives. They want to personally dig deep and study for themselves. My heart's desire for women is to enter into the secret place, dive into His Word, and know that the Holy Spirit will teach them individually.
JBU: How can we reach out to the younger women?
Priscilla: Women's ministry leaders need to take the pressure off themselves and remember it is the Holy Spirit awakening individuals, whether young or old, to follow Christ. We are often depending on what the church is going to do next to stir a fire in our midst. It has to be the Holy Spirit swooping down in the hearts of women and transforming them from the inside out. We keep trying to transform women from the outside in. Our thinking has been if we do enough they will change. We have women in ministry with this undue burden. We need to surrender our lives to Him so He can operate through us.
The second thing is to remind women ministry leaders that others want to see that they have something they are missing. When we, as leaders, are living the abundant life filled with God's peace, joy, His presence and prosperity - I'm not talking about financial prosperity, but an emotional and spiritual prosperity - others will want it for themselves.
JBU: What words of encouragement do you have for ministry wives and women in ministry?
Priscilla: First, remember you didn't put yourself in this position so don't try to do it yourself. You are not the one who has to come up with everything. I love John 12:26; it basically says that His servants will find where He is and then join Him there; they will do what He is already doing. That is why Jesus' ministry was so successful. He only did what He saw His Father doing. Our responsibility is to get into the face of God, sit with Him, and ask Him to show us what He is already doing.
I've decided not to go about planning until I've determined what He wants me to do. I leave myself open and flexible for any changes He may have. Many times I find myself saying, Lord, these are your people. You had better tell me what in the world you want me to do. This means the responsibility is taken off of me and put on Him. Hebrews 4:12 tells us we have the Living Word, the very breath of God. In His sovereignty He has a Word for you wherever you are in your relationship with Him.
The question is, when He speaks, are you listening?To learn more about Priscilla Shirer visit her website at www.goingbeyond.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 972-274-9942, or P.O. Box 2122, Cedar Hill, TX 75106-2122.
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