When Prayers Are Answered, Sort Of

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I have to admit, whenever people say they’re “blessed and highly favored,” I’m a bit jealous. I don’t say that to detract from all the blessings I’ve received or to sound ungrateful. But sometimes I feel like I’m carrying my proverbial cross more than I’m standing at the mountain top. Recently, my experience with a Book Bub ad for my second novel, Everything She Lost, caused me to reflect on my personal experience with prayer and blessings and led me to a new understanding of both.

To give some context, I first learned about the almighty Book Bub ad in 2015. For those unfamiliar with it, Book Bub is a free newsletter service that gives daily emails highlighting free and bargain books that boasts millions of subscribers. When authors are lucky enough to be approved for an ad, one reduces their book to $0.99 or more for the week then waits for the magic to happen. Shortly after I signed a contract for my debut novel, Blaming the Wind, with Red Adept Publishing, one of my fellow authors had an amazing Book Bub run that resulted in her hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestseller list. After seeing that happen, I started believing and praying that I too could have that success in the future.

After Blaming the Wind was published, I prayed and prayed that I would be accepted for a Book Bub ad. But it didn’t happen. Although Book Bub’s criteria for acceptance is somewhat mysterious, it’s believed that having a lot of great reviews definitely increases your chances, and I had struggled to garner reviews early on. So when my second book came out in January two years later, I worked really hard to get a ton of reviews, and lo and behold, I received an email from my publisher in March that I had a Book Bub ad scheduled for the 28th.

To say I was elated is an understatement. I had literally been praying for this ad and the bestseller list for three years, especially asking for the intercession of St. Jude – known as the patron saint of hopeless causes – because I knew my chances were slim. Lots of people have Book Bub ads, but few become bestsellers. Now that I had an ad scheduled, I kicked my prayers into overdrive. I just felt that this was it – my ad would run and I would become a USA Today Bestseller. (After culling their list, New York Times had become almost impossible to hit, so that was off my wish list).

Over the previous years, I had paid attention to my fellow authors’ experiences with what did and did not work when they had Book Bub runs – how to stack ads, which ads worked, using social media – so when the week of my ad arrived, I knew I had it in the bag. It started out well, and as my Amazon rank climbed every day, my expectations grew too. The morning of the big day, my rank was already high and where I thought it needed to be.

My enthusiasm, however, started to wane. Sales seemed to slow, and the later the day grew, the more I started to worry. I’d wanted to have a bestselling week for so long, I didn’t want to give up hope. So I kicked my prayers into overtime, praying the rosary, the emergency novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for St. Jude’s intercession, the Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony, and “reminded” God that Jesus had said, “ask and you shall receive.” (When it’s convenient I leave out the part that says “according to His will.”) I was definitely asking, and I threw in some bargaining, too. If I could just sell enough books to make the USA Today bestsellers list, I’d let everyone know about how God had answered my prayers.

Now, I wouldn’t be the first or last person to try and bargain with God. Decades ago, Danny Thomas was struggling to make a name for himself in show business. After being told a personal account of St. Jude’s miraculous intercession, Danny began praying for the saint’s intercession, promising that he would do something big if he could be successful professionally. Over the years, his star rose, and he landed the role of a lifetime in 1953, starring in the long-running television comedy series “Make Room for Daddy.” Not forgetting his promise, Danny opened the world-famous St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on February 4, 1962, with the unveiling of the statue of St. Jude Thaddeus. Talk about a bargain that paid off.

As night fell on the day of my Book Bub ad, I peaked at 42 on Amazon’s bestsellers rank, and realized in spite of all my planning, praying, and bargaining, I hadn’t sold enough books to hit USA Today’s list. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I had wanted it so bad for so long, yet it had slipped out of my grasp.

After days of feeling let down, I watched a YouTube video of a sermon by Charles Metcalf of Transformation Church, called “Fixed Faith.” I love watching Transformation Church’s Lead Pastor, Michael Todd’s, messages. And though I hadn’t watched Pastor Metcalf before, I needed a good word, and I received one. In Metcalf’s sermon, he references the book of Daniel, when King Nebduchanezzer commanded everyone to bow down and worship his golden statue. If anyone refused, King Nebduchanezzer threatened they would be thrown into the burning furnace. Three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, only worshiped God and refused the king’s command. When they were brought to account for their disobedience, King Nebduchanezzer demanded the men comply or face death in the furnace. The three men answered,If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NIV). After their refusal, the three men were thrown into the fiery furnace, yet an angel descended into the furnace and protected them so they were not harmed. Astonished by this, King Nebduchanezzer praises God.

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In the video, Metcalf uses this bible story as an example that when people fix their faith on God, they don’t doubt God’s power and know He has a plan for their lives regardless of current circumstances. It reminded me that although I’ll meet challenges, I need to stand firm in my faith. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew God could save them, and even if He didn’t, they still believed.

So, even though I didn’t hit a bestsellers list, I decided I’d still write a post about my Book Bub experience, St. Jude, and God’s benevolence, because I’m thankful for them. My prayers were answered because, a) I got approved for a Book Bub ad, and b) my Book Bub run was successful. I sold over 3000 books, and people have been recommending Everything She Lost ever since. That’s why I became a writer in the first place – to have people read my stories.

More importantly, even though some prayers don’t seem to be answered, I have to remember that God’s ways are higher than my own. Most certainly I remember the times I’ve been thrown in the fire and rescued. Like when my life fell apart, yet God miraculously put it back together; and when my son was in the hospital recently facing worse case scenarios, yet it ended up being something very treatable. I’m happy for my experience, because it reminded me that ultimately, even though I don’t always feel blessed, my faith tells me I am.

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