The Ghost of Larry King:
Pat Piper's Powerful Prayers
by Sandra O. Martin
But you can call him a ghost-writer.
"Larry says it and I write it. It's how I make my living. I've done two books with him this way, Future Talk and Powerful Prayers," explains Piper, who retired from producing King's radio show to the banks of Herring Bay.
The partnership is a winning combination: it converts King's supremely engaging flow into cleverly packaged anecdotes that dovetail into satisfyingly thematic chapters. The 11 chapters range from Prayer 101 through End of the Rope to Everyday Prayers. Along the way, you sample the prayers of artists and athletes, preachers and politicians.
The chapters, in turn, combine to tell another compelling story: how King's journey through the realm of prayer changed the self-confessed doubter. Let Piper explain it:
"Larry calls himself an agnostic. By the end of the journey, on a faith scale of 1 to 10, he says he's moved to 3.5 to 4. He feels he's not running the whole show, but he's not got a clue to who is or what you call it."
Part of the change came from learning about the experiences of other people. "As Larry talked to more people," Piper recounts, "he realized a lot of folks don't think of themselves as the center of the universe. They feel connected to something larger out there."
Part came from King's interactions with his book's co-author, Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Irwin Katsof, who Piper explains, is the "yin to Larry's yang."
In real life, Katsof got involved in the prayer project when King answered his prayer. The rabbi had been praying for a powerful sponsor to host a telethon for the Jerusalem Foundation. Surprising even himself, King volunteered. So as the seed for the prayer project - planted by King's daughter - grew, King "turned to the rabbi for assistance. No, let me put it this way: I called the rabbi for supervision."
Throughout the story, Katsof plays wise man to King's fool. Play is the right word, for both King and Piper believe that - in Piper's words "you can learn from humor easier than by being dictated to." But wise man and fool are also debating the meaning of King's real-life changes.
Explains Piper: "Larry was going through a lot of stuff himself. He was planning his wedding, an event with a lot of Hollywood glitter, and invitations had been sent out to 400 people when he went in for his monthly stress test. The doctor found a clogged artery, which preempted his planned wedding. He got married in the hospital. So Larry was pissed at God and said 'why would God do this to me?' The rabbi said, 'he sure isn't getting your attention any other way.'"
The question that's been asked since Job - why a just God would afflict believers - gives drama to Powerful Prayers. As King tells this story:
"'You mean God did this to get my attention? Why would God want to clog my artery? What have I ever done to God? Did God clog my artery because I won't pray?'
"'God didn't clog your artery, you did. Too much rich food, too much cholesterol, who knows? I'm a rabbi not a doctor.'
"'I won't apologize for enjoying the pleasures of life.'
"'God doesn't ask that. He wants you to enjoy life, to taste all the fruits the world has to offer. He will hold you responsible for every fruit that you don't taste in this world. Physical pleasure is only the appetizer. The artery is a sign you're out of balance.'"
Of course the other key to the book's success is King's access. Through his powerful intercession, you overhear intimate spiritual conversations with some of the world's most prominent people. Among them are political figures Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Shimon Peres, Barbara Bush. Artists and entertainers David Crosby, Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, Noah Wyle, Rod Steiger, Delta Burke, Tom Robbins. Athletes, coaches and managers Tommy Lasorda, Lou Holtz, Bruce Jenner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali - plus Oriole Eric Davis on his recent bout with colon cancer.
Says Davis about cancer and baseball: "Having the cancer removed from my body, well, my prayers were answered. I also prayed for us to win the World Series, but that didn't happen. I don't ask why. I just play with the cards I'm dealt and do it to the best of my ability."
Listening in on the prayers of the "powerful, famous and rich" is one of the reasons Kathy Johnson, of Churchton, was an early buyer and reader of Powerful Prayers: "It was comforting for me to read that people you think have it all together have their own problems that lead them to seek guidance in prayer," she said.
She's not alone. "The reviews are really big, and the book is selling very well," Piper notes.
He, too, was changed by Powerful Prayers: "The same thing that happened to King happened to me," says the ghost.
"I was writing during the lowest, most miserable times of my life. I was getting divorced, and the day I was moving out of the house, I got a call from Larry's literary agent on doing a book on prayer.
"'I'm dealing with something,' I said - it was the sorriest day of my life - 'can I get back to you?' So from a hotel room I wrote the proposal and a week later it sold at auction for big bucks.
"This book has opened a lot of doors I didn't know were around. I'm convinced the phone call on that horrible day came for a purpose, like the wake-up calls we talked about in the book. Larry's surgery, divorces, wars may be a way of whatever's running the world of getting our attention."