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Sheila Walsh: Young Girls, Your Presence Pleases God

Why A Book For Young Girls? 

Sheila’s makeup artist has an 11-year-old daughter whom Sheila befriended during speaking events. She’s also come to know the young daughters of other close friends, and likes to ask them about their hopes and concerns. The girls shared that they sometimes feel labelled by others and insecure. The pandemic has only exacerbated those feelings, with kids out of their usual routines and separated from friends. Add to that the many harmful effects of social media, with comparisons and unkind words, and there’s a lot of challenges for kids these days. All of these factors birthed in Sheila a desire to help young girls develop their relationships with God.  She’s quick to identify the motivation for her latest book, Praying Girls: “I wish I’d had a book like this when I was that age!” In thinking through the content, Sheila also talked with several of her friends, including Sandi Patti, Lisa Bevere, and Lisa Harper, about what they wish they had known when they were girls.  

When You Don't Know What To Pray

Sheila held a Facebook live event in which she talked with young girls about prayer. While some had questions about form, i.e. whether to kneel or close their eyes, most said their biggest challenge was knowing what to say in prayer. With that in mind, Sheila wrote 60 daily devotionals aimed at girls ages 11-14, which serve as specific models of prayer. She focused them in four categories: prayers for when life feels hard, for when we’re not our best selves, for reminding ourselves who we are in the Lord, and lastly, for expressing the joy of knowing God. For example, Day 18 is called “Way Too Many Worries.” Sheila asks girls to write down their three biggest worries, followed by three things they love about God. Then she directs them to read their worry list out loud, while thinking about their favorite characteristics of God. As she points out, it’s impossible to focus on good and bad things at the same time. Citing Philippians 4:8, Sheila reminds girls that they’ll find peace by dwelling on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise.  

Come As You Are 

The main idea that Sheila wants to get across to young girls is this: “You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to God. Come to Him as you are.” To illustrate the point, she tells a story about her son, Christian, when he was a little boy. He was with her at a speaking engagement and there’d been a birthday celebration for a member of the team. In his enthusiasm for the chocolate cake, Christian ended up wearing a good bit of it. Sheila, dressed in a white suit, was about to be introduced to speak when her son asked for one more hug. Knowing full well what was coming, Sheila returned to embrace her son, whose frosting-coated fingers made their mark on her suit. She figured she could use it as an object lesson! Sheila says she never wanted Christian to think he had to clean himself up before coming to his mom or dad, and that we need to think about God that way, too. “He doesn’t want our perfection, but our presence,” she says.  

Family Connections 

After a recent speaking engagement, Sheila noticed that a number of the women bought two copies of her book, explaining they wanted to read the book with their daughters, granddaughters, or other members of the family. “One of my prayers,” she explains, “is that the deepening prayer lives of young girls would also lead to deeper family connections and, consequently, a strengthening of our culture.” Sheila recalls a tense moment in her own family years ago, when prayer turned things around quickly. They were at the dinner table and her husband, Barry, was frustrated over their son forgetting his books at school. As the tension increased, Sheila started praying: “God, we’re having a little trouble here, please help us.” She says it should be a natural thing to bring God into the situation and ask for His help, which, of course, He is always ready to provide.   

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