Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sept. 12, 2015, column:
Coleman reinforces importance of prayer
By Mike Haynes
            “Hello. My name is Landon. I’m a pastor. And I struggle with prayer.”
            That’s how a man who grew up in Amarillo starts his book on the topic that he calls “by far the hardest spiritual discipline.”
            People have short attention spans. They don’t find time to pray. And then there’s the theological issue that God already knows everything, and we are small and know almost nothing, so why spend time talking to him when he’s going to do what he wants anyway?

            Those and other prayer problems are addressed in “Pray Better: Learn to Pray Biblically,” by Landon Coleman, teaching pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Odessa. Coleman, son of Bill and Karen Coleman, is a product of Belmar, Crockett and Amarillo High schools who grew up attending Trinity Baptist Church, and he doesn’t blame any prayer deficiency on his upbringing.
            He just knows from leading churches in Frankfort, Kentucky; Kingfisher, Oklahoma; and Odessa that Christians could use some guidance in their conversations with God. Instead of coming up with his own self-help suggestions, he went to the source.
            “Pray Better,” available at and, analyzes prayers from the Old and New Testaments to show what our creator intends. Twenty short chapters cover prayers by the big names, such as Abraham, Moses, Paul and John, and by other biblical men and women such as Ezra, Asaph and Hannah.
            Since his AHS graduation in 2000 and West Texas A&M degree in 2004, Coleman has earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The book reflects his deep understanding of scripture.
            Coleman points out that whether Abraham’s prayers to Yahweh (God) in Genesis were answered as he wished or not, the pleas were offered up not from a stranger asking for favors, but “in the context of relationship, faith and obedience.”
Landon Coleman
            The book also brings prayer into modern-day focus with snippets from the author’s pastoral experience. He recalls Oklahomans Tom and Karen, whose only child, Sam, was deployed three times to combat in the Middle East.
            Ten years later, Tom struggled with guilt because his prayers had been answered – his son had returned unscathed – while the prayers of other parents didn’t seem to work. He had a friend, Bill, whose son didn’t return from Afghanistan.
            By the end of “Pray Better,” we may not completely “get it” when confronted with seemingly unanswered prayer, but we will have a better grasp of the overall picture of God’s relationship with his people.
            After all, Jesus himself found in Gethsemane that his human pleas didn’t keep him from pain when they weren’t aligned with his Father’s will. Coleman examines that prayer of Christ as well as Jesus’ model prayer, which we know as the Lord’s Prayer.
            Read this book with a copy of the Bible handy, and you will pray better.
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            Speaking of outstanding books by Amarillo authors, “The Key Place,” by fellow AGN columnist Gene Shelburne, is 191 pages of brilliant writing that was published this summer. It takes the reader to the home place of Shelburne’s grandparents, where he and his siblings played as children, and offers, along with nostalgic stories, a wealth of spiritual insights.
            Go to YouTube and search for Gene Shelburne to see a 2-minute video of the author talking about the book. “The Key Place” is available at and or by calling 806-352-8769.
                                                                          * * *
            Many remember Dean Jones for “The Love Bug” and other Disney movies, but not everyone knows that the actor who died Sept. 1 at age 84 committed the latter part of his life to glorifying God.
            By the 1960s, Jones was a movie and TV star and lived the out-of-control life often associated with Hollywood. But he returned to the faith of his youth and promoted the Christian message by playing White House lawyer Chuck Colson in “Born Again” in 1978 and the apostle John in “St. John in Exile” in 1986, among other faith-based projects. In 2009 he appeared in the Christian story for children, “Mandie and the Secret Tunnel.”