My Body Is Not a Prayer Request

Disability Justice in the Church

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Pub Date 17 May 2022 | Archive Date 27 May 2022

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"With humorous prose and wry wit, Kenny makes a convincing case for all Christians to do more to meet access needs and embrace disabilities as part of God's kingdom. . . . Inclusivity-minded Christians will cheer the lessons laid out here."--Publishers Weekly

Much of the church has forgotten that we worship a disabled God whose wounds survived resurrection, says Amy Kenny. It is time for the church to start treating disabled people as full members of the body of Christ who have much more to offer than a miraculous cure narrative and to learn from their embodied experiences.

Written by a disabled Christian, this book shows that the church is missing out on the prophetic witness and blessing of disability. Kenny reflects on her experiences inside the church to expose unintentional ableism and cast a new vision for Christian communities to engage disability justice. She shows that until we cultivate church spaces where people with disabilities can fully belong, flourish, and lead, we are not valuing the diverse members of the body of Christ.

Offering a unique blend of personal storytelling, fresh and compelling writing, biblical exegesis, and practical application, this book invites readers to participate in disability justice and create a more inclusive community in church and parachurch spaces. Engaging content such as reflection questions and top-ten lists are included.
"With humorous prose and wry wit, Kenny makes a convincing case for all Christians to do more to meet access needs and embrace disabilities as part of God's kingdom. . . . Inclusivity-minded...

Advance Praise

“Amy Kenny’s My Body Is Not a Prayer Request is holy ground. Kenny writes with devastating humor and uncommon depth that will remind readers of Anne Lamott. You will laugh, weep, and fume with rage—all on the same page. The words she writes will matter to you. They will change the way you see—everything. Kenny’s courage to say the things that need to be said is only matched by the skill with which she wields her proverbial pen. All hail this new and necessary voice.”—Lisa Sharon Harper, author of The Very Good Gospel and Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World—and How to Repair It All

“By times wise and tender, then grab-you-by-the-lapels prophetic truth-telling, Kenny’s passion, anger, and hope for disability justice is utterly embodied. I found this book to be not only a call to justice but an invitation to deep blessing. I will be pressing this book into the hands of every ministry leader I know.”—Sarah Bessey, editor of the New York Times bestseller A Rhythm of Prayer and author of Jesus Feminist
“In My Body Is Not a Prayer Request, Amy Kenny describes with wit and candor her experiences as a disabled Christian in worship services and Bible studies, but also in places like the DMV, high school, the doctor’s office, and Disneyland—showing, lamentably, how ableism at church looks just like it does everywhere else. She raises up the way of Jesus to practice holistic healing in the face of ableism’s holistic harms. Drawing from diverse biblical narratives and insights from disability studies, Kenny issues a convicting invitation to the people of God to live up to our deepest values and to stop excluding the necessary gifts of our disabled kindred, for the good of all. I will be giving this book to my disabled and nondisabled friends alike.”—Bethany McKinney Fox, author of Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church
“In Amy Kenny’s outstanding debut, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request, she tells us this book is her unstifled scream. Are we listening? I am screaming alongside her when I read about how we as the church harm her and other disabled people. Kenny exegetes not only Scripture and individuals with precision but also the American system and the church. Our theology and our actions demonstrate that many are anything but pro-life—we are guilty of ableism and eugenics, and we need to repent. Kenny is among the sharpest writers and thinkers, and she offers the truth through beautiful writing, wit, wisdom, and grace while showing us the way forward.”—Marlena Graves, author of The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself
“Incisive, witty, and revelatory, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request is a much-needed prophetic intervention against the ableist ‘common sense’ that prevails in many churches. This work is sure to be a balm for those who have ever felt sidelined because of ableist theology and sure to be a redemptive kick in the pants for the rest of us.”—Andre Henry, award-winning singer-songwriter, writer, and activist
“Through a series of fascinating, moving, and sometimes disturbing narratives, Amy Kenny takes us into the heart of the experience of disability and the practical and theological challenges that people face on a daily basis. In her experiential narrative theology, she brings to light the inadequacies of certain theological assumptions and at exactly the same time draws attention to the invaluable perspective that theology, thought through in the light of disability, brings to the life of the church and the world. The book opens up fresh perspectives that can help all of us understand disability theologically and appreciate our humanness more fully.”—John Swinton, professor in practical theology and pastoral care, University of Aberdeen
“Kenny’s book doesn’t just turn the American church’s misguided understanding about disability right side up. It invites the church’s members into the community of the beloved where disabled bodies and nondisabled bodies are seen, valued, and loved equally and holistically. Her book is a loving invitation into communal wellness. May it be so.”—Chanté Griffin, journalist and advocate
“Beautifully written and vulnerably shared, Amy’s message cuts to the core of ableism, whose culture has been allowed to roam unchecked in the church, perpetuating harm. Kenny calls us to be a more inclusive people, graciously and honestly helping us learn new theological insights, practices, and ways forward together.”—Michelle Ferrigno Warren, activist and author of The Power of Proximity
“Amy Kenny says this book is her scream! What resounds is the Holy Spirit’s empowering witness to the ends of the earth about what redemption in Christ looks like for a disabled person. This witness calls all of us nondisabled persons to repent of our ableism: how our assumptions about what is ‘normal’ make life more challenging for disabled persons. Be prepared to experience God’s saving transformation of our minds, our prejudices, and our ways of life so that we can go from seeing bodies like Amy’s as a prayer request to being part of a church that challenges the ableism in our world.”—Amos Yong, professor of theology and mission, Fuller Theological Seminary
“This book is sure to challenge churches in precisely the right ways. Amy Kenny writes with an honest, compelling, clear, and prophetic style, artfully weaving together personal narratives with rich biblical understanding. The result offers transformative possibilities for cultivating faithful communities of belonging for all.”—Thomas E. Reynolds, associate professor of theology, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto

“Amy Kenny’s My Body Is Not a Prayer Request is holy ground. Kenny writes with devastating humor and uncommon depth that will remind readers of Anne Lamott. You will laugh, weep, and fume with...

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Featured Reviews

It's difficult to describe the experience of reading Amy Kenny's "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request: Disability Justice in the Church," a book that I read both as a reviewer of literary efforts and as a disabled Christian and ordained minister who experienced the book as somewhat of a primal scream that uncompromisingly calls forth disability justice in the church that so often recognizes or dismisses disability and the disabled as less than, suffering, consequences of the fall, and/or all of the above.

Kenny, who obtained her PhD from the University of Sussex, is a a disabled scholar whose research focuses on medical and bodily themes in literature. Expertly weaving together personal testimony and experiences with biblical exegesis, Kenny has crafted a book that called out my own internal and externalized ableism, called me into action, made me laugh, made me shout, made me cry, and with her closing three words, which I won't share here, left me in tears and realizing how so very little I hear these words that are so fundamental to the human experience.

As I read "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request," I began exploring my own life growing up in the church with spina bifida and experiencing a lifetime of well over 50 inpatient surgeries alone along with multiple amputations, paraplegia, a brain injury, and a myriad of other health complications that have often left me doubting my place in the church yet, somehow, never doubting my faith.

I agree with Lisa Sharon Harper, as I usually do, who declared "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request" to be holy ground, Kenny's one that writes with both love and rage knowing that we worship a disabled God whose wounds survived resurrection. With remarkable vulnerability, Kenny shares her own experiences inside churches, healthcare, and other settings and the institutionalized ableist beliefs and practices that we, those with disabilities, are simply supposed to set aside either because things don't change or because those who practice them at least mean well.

Meaning well isn't enough.

As one reads Kenny's experiences alongside her tremendous accomplishments both personal and professional, it is impossible to not feel empowered and encouraged by "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request." She inspires, not in the way labeled "inspiration porn" by the late activist Stella Young, but in the way that recognizes the tremendous heart and soul work Kenny has put into living into her own voice even while surrounded by ableism in every day life.

As if her own testimony and biblical exegesis aren't enough, Kenny infuses "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request" with tremendous applicability including beautifully constructed points of reflection and pointed top-ten lists at the end of each of the book's chapters.

There is much to love about "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request" and there's simply no question it will be among my favorite books of 2022, both because it is incredibly written and because my own life experienced felt baptized by Kenny's words.

"My Body Is Not a Prayer Request" is a must-read for pastors old and new and should be required reading for seminarians everywhere. For anyone who works with or on behalf of individuals with disabilities, "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request" should serve as a necessary introduction into disability justice and creating more inclusion in church and parachurch spaces.

My favorite books are those books that change who I am as a human being and as a person of faith. While I have lived as a disabled person of faith for my over 50 years of life, I have long waited for a book such as "My Body Is Not a Prayer Request."

Finally, it has arrived. For that, and for the ministry of Amy Kenny I do give thanks.

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From the second I saw this book's title and the brilliant and articulate woman who has authored it, I was eager to get my hands on it. Amy Kenny presents a term and explores a concept I've understood in my own life experience but not had words to attach to it: disability justice. I won't tell my husband's story, but he uses a wheelchair, and the all too frequent instances of glaring ignorance, intolerance, and inability to offer inclusivity have taught me a lot.

The author's writing skill combined with her timely and desperately needed message make this the best resource I've ever seen for those wishing to realign their thinking on disability. "I am what every athlete fears and what pregnant parents dread...People call my murderers 'merciful' because I am a burden and a drain and a waste. I am disabled."

Countless times I wanted to yell "EXACTLY" or "THANK YOU" or somehow beg....everyone to read this. She talks about how it is the way the world is structured that is disabling--and if there were ramps, for example, those using wheelchairs would be perfectly free instead of confined to only SOME buildings and barred from others (this is far more common than people who are not in wheelchairs realize).

All in all, a beautiful, powerful, essential book I cannot say enough good things about. Kenny's message to the world at large and the church in particular is decades overdue and exquisitely worded.

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This was incredible. Amy Kenny has put an eloquent and powerful testimony of disability in the church out into the world. Through personal experience and scriptural references, she walks us through the everyday bias the disabled community faces in a space that claims to be welcoming and accommodating. I found a lot to improve on personally, as well as a lot of things in my local community that can be confronted. I will 100% be recommending this book.

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Disability awareness doesn't get talked about nearly enough in Christian circles. Plenty of sermons touch on racism, sexism, and classism, but I honestly don't remember ever hearing one on ableism. Instead, many Christians and churches continue to perpetuate harmful ideas about disability and often exclude our disabled brothers and sisters from feeling truly included in church.

The author does an excellent job of breaking down exactly where the church has fallen short and how Christians can do better. As someone already fairly familiar with disability advocacy outside of the church, I'd never truly processed how many Christianese things contribute to ableism from common verse interpretations to song lyrics to other forms of outright exclusion. This book has challenged me to rethink how I personally can be a better advocate within the church.

This is an important book, and I'd recommend it to all Christians but especially to those unfamiliar with accessibility.

This was very well-written, and I hope to read more by this author in the future!

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Wow! “My Body Is Not A Prayer Request” is an insightful, humbling, and hopeful book. I feel privileged to take a look inside the heart and mind of a disabled person. I set aside my preconceived notions of disability and was met with beauty and wisdom I would have missed without reading this book. This quote is just too good to miss: “To assume that my disability needs to be erased in order for me to live an abundant life is disturbing not only because of what it says about me but also because of what it reveals about people’s notions of God. I bear the image of the Alpha and the Omega. My disabled body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. I have the mind of Christ. There’s no caveat to those promises. I don’t have a junior holy spirit because I am disabled. To suggest that I am anything less than sanctified and redeemed is to suppress the image of God in my disabled body and to limit how God is already at work through my life. Maybe we need to be freed not from disability but from the notion that it limits my ability to showcase God’s radiance to the church. What we need to be freed from is ableism.” Take the time to look into your own heart to see where these insidious lies might be showing up in your perception of the disabled. I know my heart and mind have been forever changed and a new set of eyes to see and honor the work and dignity of God within them

I highly recommend “My Body Is Not A Prayer Request” and hope you are able to read it and let the Holy Spirit convict, teach, and change you through Amy Kenny’s words.

I just reviewed My Body Is Not a Prayer Request by Amy Kenny. #MyBodyIsNotaPrayerRequest #NetGalley

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This is such an amazing and important book. Even as someone who thinks that they have some ideas about what it like to live with a disability (hey, my kid is disabled!) I was continually challenged and left staring off into space contemplating how the world works for different groups of people. Even if you are not a person of faith, this book is deeply insightful and absolutely necessary for anyone who needs to truly undertstand how ableist our society really is.

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My body is not a prayer request:
Hands down one of the best non fiction books I’ve read this year.
Amy shines a light on how society and the church is failing the disabled community, and how we all should be doing better.
I would recommend this book to anyone even if you aren’t in the religious space but especially for those that are. My body is not a prayer request will continuously be a book I come back to and each time I do I know i will gleam a little bit more wisdom from it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Baker Academic & Brazos press

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A powerful book that deserves 5 stars, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request is one I've already recommended to a dozen people within a week of reading. I learned and am changed from this book.

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Through wit and wisdom, Kenny challenges all readers, not just those of faith, to recognize ableism and exclusion. This much needed call to advocate disability justice in word, deed, and setting should be required text for every church, every community, and the spaces each inhabit. With powerful, paramount messaging, Amy Kenny’s ‘My Body Is Not a Prayer Request’ is not only timely, it is an absolute game changer

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If you read one book this year, it should be this one. Amy Kenny is brilliant and passionate as she discusses disability, the church, theology, and ableism. She truly brings disability justice to light with such grace, love, and honesty - and in a manner that one could only hope to emulate. My Body is Not a Prayer Request is truly an important and necessary addition to the disability conversation, and I would recommend this book to those who are religious and those who are not.

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I could not have written this book, but I needed to read it. Routinely I advise my students to allow people to speak for themselves, whether or not you agree with them. “Agreeing” and “disagreeing” aren’t actually relevant in considering what Amy Kenny has written; she has told her story truthfully, credibly, and powerfully and all of us need to hear genuinely what she is saying. My Body is not a Prayer Request is a hybrid genre: autobiography and theology. As a Christian ministry professor whose doctoral research focused on biblical studies, I am comfortable evaluating her theological reflections, and what I found here is thoroughly biblical, profoundly thoughtful, and saturated with the gospel. I dare not evaluate her story, but it resonates strongly with my second-person experience as the father of a young man with Down syndrome. Ultimately, all theology incorporates a measure of autobiography, and Amy Kenny has blended the two modes wonderfully. I am appalled at what she has endured from some people, I am encouraged by her hope and stamina, and I am hopeful that the church can become the community she envisions. We (I. e., the church) can and should do better than we have done. Thank you, Amy Kenny, for pointing us in the right direction.

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I’ve been savoring an advanced copy of My Body Is Not A Prayer Request by @dramykenny and am pretty sure it will end up being one of my top books for 2022. And since I’m reading it on my kindle, I thought I’d share a favorite quote (one of MANY):

“A person’s feelings of discomfort should never be in competition with someone else’s belonging.”

Whether you know someone or are someone in the disabled community or not, this book is for all of us.

I love how Dr. Amy Kenny talks about how our flourishing is connected. We all benefit when someone else flourishes, and she shows how this gets to be true over and over again.

I am so grateful for her perspective that many of us are only temporarily able-bodied. We will all experience brokenness in our bodies, whether that comes from aging, sickness or disability. Being dependent and having needs is how we were made. This is part of the good news of the gospel. I’m so grateful for the lens of disability brought to scripture and the embodied hope it offers.

Even the parts of this book that have been convicting or hard to read are good and true and needed. I’m learning a lot and am so grateful for the courage it took to both write and live this book.

I don’t often recommend books before I’ve finished them, but this one seems worth the exception. If I could press this one into your hands, I would. We all need this message of embodied hope and the invitation to reconsider how we love our neighbor.

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This book is amazing! I ended up reading it through in one sitting as I kept finding my own experiences and thoughts within the pages. While disabled people make up the largest minority group as we are all spread out and not geographically located together sometimes you can wonder if you’re the only one who experiences ableism in a certain way, reading this it appears that is far from the case.

Amy Kenny writes with a strong and powerful yet clear voice about her experiences as a disabled person within both the Church and society at large. She points out how often narratives create disability as something that is entirely negative and that inclusion can easily be written off as unnecessary due to a variety of reasons. At no point though does Kenny come across as moaning about the situation instead she sets out how the current situation is not the best society can be and why before making suggestions on how to make positive changes. In many ways the book is a workbook that Churches could easily go through to reflect on their own communities and inclusivity. Kenny includes sections on both physical inclusion but also thinking about what language we use too. What stood out for me was her interpretations of different aspects of theology and how curing someone physically and healing can be entirely different things.

I did feel that the primary target of this book is probably for able bodied people and is definitely a very good starting tool to get people thinking (and hopefully acting). That being said one of the end questions Kenny asks of the reader is, ‘How are you different for reading this book?’ and for me it was very much a case of feeling of belonging and appreciation that other people out there facing similar barriers to me are actively making changes and I suspect other disabled people will feel similar.

Every Church needs a copy of this book!

Also I am going to have to steal the analogy of ‘Ableism malaria’ (if curious as to what that is definitely read this book!)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you too to Amy Kenny for writing this and being the voice of many people.

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