Penny Cooke is a Certified Biblical Life Coach, Bible teacher and author whose latest book is Pursuing Prayer: Being Effective in a Busy World.

First, give us an introduction to yourself as an author and ministry leader.
I have read the Bible since I was a young girl, but in my early twenties I truly committed my life to Christ. Since then, I have served and/or led in the area of women’s ministry. As the women’s coordinator at my church, I taught a class on prayer. It is this class that started it all for the book.

What led to you leaving your career in decorating in order to serve in ministry?
It wasn’t my plan. I actually left one job for another that didn’t work out. It was then that God opened the door for me to serve as the women’s coordinator at my church. It wasn’t easy letting go of one thing I loved for another thing I loved. I continued to do some decorating as well, but eventually I had to let that go. And as things progressed with writing, I’ve given up the women’s leadership role as well, but I still continue to teach on Sundays.

You’ve been serving in women’s ministry for over 30 years. What changes have you observed in women’s ministry during that time?There are so many demographics. Women are busier today, so they want their time to be well-used. They would rather a service project than any kind of fluff. They want authenticity and teaching that’s relatable to all they have going on in their lives. 

What do you see as the greatest need being faced by women today?
Time. My prayer is that we’ll all re-prioritize as a result of this pandemic we’re facing right now. I pray we’ll all get back to what’s most important. But I think as always women need acceptance, to know they have a safe place to share their heart and that they’re not alone.

What is a Certified Biblical Life Coach?
This just means I coach from a biblical prospective. I love to coach women about their purpose, but also their schedules and how to fit time with God into it all – and how the two relate.

How did you go from being a ministry leader to a published author?
As I mentioned, a class I taught at church started it all. A women in the class, who is a published author, was beginning an online magazine at the time and asked me to write a series of articles based on the information from the class. Then she encouraged me to write it as a Bible study book. Since I’ve always loved writing, I embraced the challenge. Around that time, a friend asked me to go to a writer’s conference. I entered the study into the contest and it won first place. That was such an encouragement to keep going, especially because the next few years were filled with personal challenges. Eventually, I was offered a contract by New Hope Publishers, and the book was released in November 2019.

You’re the author of three books. Tell us a little about them.
The first two are compilations. I have ten devotions in Worthy Inspired’s The Wonders of Nature devotional, and a Bible study in Lighthouse Publishing’s Heart Renovation – A Construction Guide to Godly Character. The third is my book, Pursuing Prayer – Being Effective in a Busy World. Pursuing Prayer can be used as a six-week Bible study or personal devotional. It’s about being intentional with our prayer lives.

You speak on faith and prayer. What is your primary message that you feel God has called you to share?
Yes, my two favorite subjects. They are so connected. It takes faith to pray, doesn’t it? When I began this journey, I felt the Lord impress on me that the church was sleeping, much like the disciples when He asked them to pray and they fell asleep instead. When our lives become too busy, often the most important things get put aside – like prayer and Bible reading/study. I’m talking about fervent prayer, not the short on-the-go prayers we pray throughout the day; it’s setting aside a time for prayer when we can focus on the things Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. That’s what the book is about, the things Jesus taught regarding prayer and why they’re important for us today and how we can implement them into our prayers, not just recite it as a rote prayer. I think the Lord is saying, there’s more to prayer. It’s a spiritual battle and I need you all to fight. And I need you all awake for the battle.

How are you spending your time now during quarantine?
Along with writing and writing-related tasks, I’m taking the time to clean out some things in my house that have needed it (can anyone relate?). I’m making face masks for Hospice nurses. And I’m determining to pray more for our families, our country and our world. While I pray some good things come out of all this, my heart aches for those who being at home is not a positive experience.

What words of encouragement do you have to share for women struggling with all that’s going on with Coronavirus and the quarantine?
Hang in there and keep perspective. We are not stuck at home, we are safe at home. Others are suffering. Others are on the front lines. Keep praying, and pray with your kids, if you have them at home, so they can grow in compassion for those less fortunate. Know that God is in control and we need not fear. He will take care of us. Also, what is He teaching you in this time? I know it might sound strange, but enjoy this time. Take the time to do things you haven’t had time to do. Be creative and be resourceful. Even though it can get stressful, try and enjoy your family in ways you haven’t been able to. And think about how you can keep some of that when this is over. Don’t let the time be wasted. It can be a blessing in disguise.

Anything else you’d like to share?
God answers prayer. Sometimes it takes a lot of praying and for a very long time. I prayed for my addicted son for 13 long years, and he’s a pastor now. We may not understand all that’s going on, but don’t give up. Keep praying. Like Dori in Finding Nemo saying, “Just keep swimming…”, tell yourself, “Just keep praying, just keep praying”...

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About the Author Sharon Wilharm

Christian women’s speaker, Sharon Wilharm, is a ministry leader, podcast host, and female filmmaker whose stories have impacted audiences around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Sharon draws the audience in with humor, engages them with stories, then ties everything together to bring to light spiritual truths. Her heart’s desire is to encourage women in their walk with the Lord, showing them how to find God’s will for their life through prayer and scripture. “God is the Master Storyteller,” says Sharon. “I love helping women see how God is always at work behind the scenes laying the foundation for the glorious future He has in store for us.” Sharon is a firm believer in the power of prayer and has many stories to share of God working in miraculous ways in her own life as well as those around her. She’s passionate about teaching women how to pray and loves engaging with women in personal prayer. Wherever she goes, she finds herself surrounded by women in need of prayer, and she considers it an honor to pray with women whether they’re friends, family, or complete strangers. Sharon has enjoyed a lifelong fascination with women of the Bible and loves applying the biblical stories to modern situations. She teaches a Women Through the Bible study at her church, applying the S.O.A.P. method of scripture study. She especially enjoys delving into lesser known women and discovering encouraging truths for women of today. She recently launched a new podcast where she works her way through the Bible sharing the stories of All God’s Women.

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