by Stephen Parolini for Crosswalk Music

My phone interview with {{Rebecca St James}} began as any other...with a telephone ring.

"Hello, this is Steve," I began.

"Hi, Steve. This is Rebecca." The Aussie accent was all I needed to be sure this Rebecca wasn't some old high school classmate.

"Thanks for calling...I thought we'd get started by talking about the new album..."

"Would you mind if we prayed first?"

"Um...no. That's a great idea!"

I wondered if she would detect my surprise at her request. I've interviewed hundreds of Christian artists over the past 12 years-only a handful had invited me to pray with them to begin the interview. In the split-second before she began to pray, I recalled the title of Rebecca's latest CD-==Pray==-and for that micro-moment, wondered if this prayer was a subtle attempt to authenticate the album (or the artist). Was this nothing more than a well-thought-out marketing ploy designed to set a positive tone for the rest of the interview?

Her prayer snapped me out of my cynicism and back to the truth. This was no calculated event. It became obvious even before we'd begun that prayer was the driving force in Rebecca's life-and that the album title was nothing more than acknowledgment of that importance.

"The title ==Pray== is very appropriate because prayer is such an important thing to me...before concerts, before interviews...before everything. It's so essential," says Rebecca. "I come from a country where you don't mince words. I think [choosing to title the album ==Pray==] is part of my Australian-ness coming out. I just say it how it is...and people seem to like the straight-ahead approach."

Rebecca's emphasis on prayer permeates the album. Ironically, prayer also was responsible for putting the album's release date at risk.

"Toward the beginning of this year," says Rebecca, "I prayed, 'God, guide me and give me your lyrics and your songs.' But no creativity was really coming. I began to ask: 'Lord, am I hearing from you. What's going on? Do you even want me to sing anymore?' There were some really tough questions being asked. It was very hard to take because the inspiration wasn't coming. Waiting on God can be a real challenge, because [the inspiration for songwriting] doesn't happen in my timing, it happens in His. Through that time, God taught me a lot about trusting, and knowing that He is in control and had my best interest at heart. Even though it was an uncomfortable experience, I think it was a good one."

One of the first songs written for the album, "Peace," came out of that struggle. In part, it says: "When the fires rage, when the storms surround me, still I live in peace. Though the mountains fall, crashing into the ocean, Still I live in peace." Rebecca responds, "Looking back, I can see God's hand was in this experience."

God's hand has appeared to have been on Rebecca throughout her young career. In fact, she didn't set out to be singer. "I never desired to be on stage. I like to be in the audience watching someone else perform. Growing up around Christian music, it was kind of a natural direction for me. But the reason I do this because I love God and this is where he wants me to be. There's one song on the album, 'Mirror,' that talks about being beautiful and pleasing to God. That's my ultimate goal, that's my heart-to please him."

Sure, the response may not seem like a surprise-probably every Christian artist has said it more than once. But unlike some artists-who clearly hope for a long and successful career in Christian music-Rebecca expects "pleasing God" will mean giving up Christian music-sooner than you might expect.

"I don't think I'll be doing albums in, say, four or five years," says Rebecca. "God may prove me wrong, but I don't feel that He will call me to keep on in this kind of ministry. I know [making records] is just for a season and someday God will call me out of it into a more 'behind-the-scenes' kind of ministry, perhaps simply being a wife and mother."

Or working with children, Rebecca says, "One of those things that really puts a light in my eyes is children. I love children. I've always dreamed I'd work in an orphanage, or with children. Next year, I've got a few months off and I'm hoping to get my hands dirty and do things to serve people. But it would have to be God's hand and God's leading."

Wherever God leads her, Rebecca is ready to follow. And she seems unconcerned about the dramatic change-of-life that would follow a departure from the public world of Christian music.

"One of my favorite verses is Acts 20:24, which says: 'I don't care about my own life; the most important thing is to complete my mission: the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to tell people the good news about God's grace.' I'm more interested in things like that than hearing my voice on the radio."

The day will come when her voice is no longer played on the radio, and Rebecca St James will be just as happy pleasing God wherever He leads her. But for a time-for a season-we can enjoy that God has placed her in the ministry of making music. We can wrap ourselves around the lyrical and musical imagery in her songs. We can join with her on her faith journey. And perhaps along the way we'll even learn a thing or two about prayer. Prayer works, you know. Just ask {{Rebecca St James}} for an interview...you'll see.