Sarah Young, the author of the highly successful “Jesus Calling” devotional, has died.
Last month, her publisher, Thomas Nelson, reported that she was in “rapidly failing” health.
“We know that Sarah really believes in the power of prayer and prays for her readers every morning,” the publishing house wrote in a statement shared on Facebook. “Now, we have the precious privilege to lift up Sarah and her family. Please join us in prayer.”
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Jesus Calling was birthed out of Young’s battle with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses which forced her to spend massive amounts of time alone.
During those times of isolation, Young began to practice what she called “listening prayer” to journal what she felt the Holy Spirit tell her, Christianity Today reported.
“Messages began to flow … and I bought a special notebook to record these words,” Young later wrote. “I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him.”
Her writings circulated to a small prayer group in Nashville, TN in the early 2000s. One of the women from the prayer group shared it with her husband who was the vice president of marketing at Integrity Publishers and Integrity. He asked Young if she would write a devotional for women.
In 2004, Jesus Calling was published.
“Not since ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ has a daily devotional enraptured the English-speaking world, from cynical intellectuals to sweet grandmas, across the theological spectrum,” wrote Melissa Steffan for Christianity Today.
In 2009, the book earned a top 10 spot on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s bestseller list.
Since then, Young has sold more than 45 million copies of the 365-day devotional. And this August, she outsold T.D. Jakes, Lee Strobel, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Louie Giglio, and Max Lucado.
Young once described publishing her devotional book as “a long, prayer-filled journey.”
“Ever since its publication,” she said, “I’ve prayed daily for people who are reading ‘Jesus Calling’ or any of my subsequent books. I consider it an amazing privilege and a God-given responsibility to pray for readers.”
Despite its popularity, Jesus Calling has faced staunch criticism.
As CBN Faithwire reports, Tim Challies, a pastor and popular Christian blogger, has called her work “troubling,” while author Randy Alcorn has gone so far as to describe “Jesus Calling” as “an entire book built on falsehood.”
“The biggest problem with ‘Jesus Calling’ is very simple,” he told The Christian Post in 2018. “Jesus did not speak these words. If these were His words, then ‘Jesus Calling’ would be Scripture, which is by definition the words of God.”
Despite the controversy, millions of readers have found comfort and peace in her writings, including talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford.
“I marvel at her endurance and her faith,” Gifford said. “I’m deeply humbled by her heart for Jesus.”
Young has already released a children’s version of Jesus Calling and two follow-up devotionals titled Jesus Always, and Jesus Today. She has also published two prayer journals called Jesus Lives and Jesus Listens.
Thomas Nelson is slated to publish “Jesus Listens for Advent & Christmas” this fall.
Young died in Nashville, TN. She is survived by her husband, Steve, daughter Stephanie, and son Eric.