Langham Scholar, author and editor Yohanna Katanacho gives some background to his journey of faith and the story behind Praying Through the Psalms:
I was born in Jerusalem, in June 1967, during the Arab–Israeli war known as the “Six-Day War”. My father risked his life to bring us home and despite the bomb that exploded next to the entrance of our home, tragically killing our neighbor, we arrived home safely. This is how my life began, and ever since, I have lived with conflict and wars motivated by politics and religion.
I grew up in Jerusalem, a city full of religious people – Jews, Muslims and Christians – who often walk along the same streets, distinguishable by their dress. Early one morning in 1986, I awoke to the sound of the church bells of Jerusalem. It was 3:00 a.m. I opened my eyes and felt a strange sensation like air penetrating my body! And then, I could not move. My hands, feet and neck seemed paralyzed and I was not even able to shout. For a moment I thought I was dead, but as I tried to understand what was happening to me, I failed to find a logical explanation. After struggling to free myself for almost two hours, I cried out to God saying, “O Lord, if this is you, free me and I promise I will search for you.” This was my first prayer when I recognized the truthfulness of God’s existence. After this short prayer, I found I could move again. My whole worldview had collapsed in just one night. Now, how could I continue to actively support atheism at Bethlehem University? How could I explain what had happened to me? I got up, drank some water, and went back to bed. Later, I was afraid to say that God did not exist. I was even afraid to walk in dark places because my mysterious supernatural encounter had happened in the dark. In short, I was puzzled and needed answers, so I started searching for God.
In 1987, I began to study the Bible, but I was disturbed by what I discovered. I argued, “How can someone live on earth for fifty or sixty years and then be cast into Hell by God for eternity? This is unfair.” During this period, I was invited to attend a special “revival meeting” at the Alliance Church in Jerusalem, and consequently, I decided to follow Jesus Christ. I felt that God was speaking to me and asking me to give Him my heart. I answered praying, “Lord, I don’t have a problem giving you my heart, but I do have a problem giving you my mind.” This was my second important prayer in my spiritual journey. I knew that I was a sinner and that I needed to be saved, but I was not completely convinced of the justice of Christianity. However, I decided to take a step of faith; I told the Lord that I would give Him my heart, but that I had to trust Him to convince me intellectually.
From that moment, I started experiencing significant changes in my life. There were still difficult challenges ahead of me, for the Bible commanded me to love my enemies! If I accepted the authority of the Bible, then I should obey its commandment to love. I learned to love as I learned to pray. But love is not an excuse to abandon justice. It is, in fact, an opportunity to pursue justice with the logic of love. Thus, I learned to pray as an agent of justice committed to the logic of love.
At every turning point in my life, I discovered the importance and power of prayer. Thus I fell in love with the book of Psalms, a prayer book. After finishing my PhD in psalms, I encountered escalating difficulties that led me to be on my knees. I decided to wake up at 4 AM every morning in order to spend time with God and study the book of psalms prayerfully. These hours of prayer transformed my weakness into strength and my tears into a theological lens. I then wrote my prayers and decided to post them on Facebook. I called these posts: Facebook Theology. Then I collected these 150 prayers and put them together in a book. My intention is to encourage people to meet with God. It is indeed worth it!
– Rev. Professor Yohanna Katanacho, Ph.D.
Nazareth Evangelical College – Academic Dean
Bethlehem Bible College – Consultant and Professor of Biblical Studies
Buy your copy of Praying Through the Psalms by Yohanna Katanacho today! Available in hardback with decorative jacket, and includes pages for reflection and your own prayers. RRP £29.99. Email PRAY2018 to firstname.lastname@example.org to get 33% discount. Offer available until 30th April 2018, whilst stocks last. Also available in paperback and electronic formats.