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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Week Forty-Nine: Cecil Murphey

Three Writing Prayers

“Remind me that everything I am and everything I have come as gifts from you”–Cecil Murphey

I had signed a contract to ghostwrite a book, completed the interviews, and read all the background information. Then came the time to hibernate with my computer. The first six chapters flowed with energy. After that, the quality of the writing diminished. By the tenth chapter, I wondered why I had agreed to write such a book. By chapter fifteen, I was positive the publishing house would demand I repay the advance.

It wasn’t my first book—in fact, I had published more than fifty books—but this one was different. Doubts brought struggles I hadn’t felt before. What made me think I could write anyway? For nearly a month, each day I fought the temptation to stop; however, I stayed at the task and completed the manuscript because I had signed a contract. I went over the pages several times. It wasn’t good, but I didn’t know how to make it better. Finally, I said, “God, this is the best I can do at this stage of my development.” The writing could become better, but I didn’t know how to make it better then.

That simple statement freed me. The publisher didn’t ask for the return of the advance and liked what I wrote. That was in 1990, and the book was Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. It still remains in print with about two million copies sold. I’m sure I could write it better today, but it was the best I could do then.

That was the first of three prayers I repeat each time I work on a new project.

A second prayer dates to the year 2000. I wrote a book; my agent loved it; at least a dozen editors said they’d like to publish it, but none of them made an offer. The subject matter wasn’t something they wanted to handle. I grieved over that book because I had put so much of my heart into writing it. One day, I heard myself praying, “God, I am passionately involved in the process but emotionally detached from the result.”

I must have repeated that sentence ten times, but I was able to let the manuscript go. The book still has not been published, but I know I wrote it passionately, and that day I emotionally detached from the result.

My third prayer came about after an editor called me a gifted writer. His words shocked me. And yet, even editors who turn down my manuscripts frequently comment on how well written they are. One day I realized that God gave me the ability to write well. Until then, I considered my writing as something I could do, worked hard at the craft, and loved the process. That’s when I asked, “God, is this a gift?”

In retrospect, it seems like a silly question. The facts that (a) I love to write, (b) I have published a hundred books, and (c) I still love learning how to improve indicate that God gave me this talent. Here is the prayer I repeat regularly: “Remind me that everything I am and everything I have come as gifts from you. That statement may not be profound, but it is true and it expresses how I feel about my writing."


Veteran author Cecil (Cec) Murphey has written or cowritten more than 135 books, including the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). His books have sold in the millions and have brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world. For more information, visit

1 comment:

Rose McCauley said...

Thanks for the great advice, Cec. Very timely for me and others as we leave this week for the ACFW conference. I plan to write the prayers down and post them on my computer!