What Shirley and Danae Have to Say on Faith, Hospitality, and Prayer
Shirley Dobson may be best known for her role as the chairman of the National Day of Prayer and for being the wife of renowned author and ministry leader Dr. James Dobson. But according to Shirley, one of the key places for her ministry over the years has been in her own home. Within that sacred space, relationships have been formed and faith has been cultivated — with strangers, with friends, and with her immediate family, including her two grown children.
“My mom is a role model to me for what it means to be a Christian woman,” Danae Dobson says. “Her love for the Lord inspires me, and I’ve been blessed to witness the way she lives her life and the way she honors the Lord with her decisions.” Danae’s admiration for her mother is obvious not only in her words but also in the way she has patterned her life as a woman of faith in her own right.
In addition to their mutual faith, Danae shares with her mother a love for hospitality and a passion for prayer. And, as of last fall, they added another common experience to the list: collaborating on a book together. Shirley and Danae are the coauthors of Welcome to Our Table, a book full of family recipes, inspiring stories, and lush photography.
“It was very special to do a book with my mom,” Danae says. “When I initially asked her if she’d like to collaborate, she said she’d love to, but she just didn’t have the time. Between her responsibilities as the chairman for the National Day of Prayer and helping my dad launch his new ministry, Family Talk, she had a full plate. But hospitality is something we’re both passionate about, and she gradually became more open to the idea.”
Shirley affirms this Dobson value of hospitality. “I have always cherished family, faith, and friends,” she says. “Having people join us in our home for times of fellowship is such a pleasure to me.”
And so this mother-daughter teamed up to share their stories and inspire others to recapture this lost art that too often gets overlooked in our fast-paced world.
A Legacy of Hospitality
For Shirley and Danae, hospitality goes deeper than merely entertaining or preparing food. It is a spiritual calling — something God Himself is passionate about. “Scripture teaches that it is fitting and proper for believers to welcome others into their homes,” Shirley says. “Being kind to others provides an opportunity to introduce the love of Jesus to those who might not know Him.”
Danae agrees. “Hospitality isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s something we’re commanded in Scripture to practice. God wants us to use our homes to be a light for Christ and to reach out to those who are hurting or in need. They’ll be able to experience God’s love in a way they might not otherwise.”
Danae is grateful for the multigenerational example she’s had of hospitality — both from her mother and from her grandmother. “For me, food is associated with warm memories. I loved to watch my mom and her mother, Grandma Alma, prepare dishes for holidays and other special occasions. There was always a spirit of love and laughter, and I was fascinated by the stories they told from the past.”
“My mom has always had an eye for beauty and charm,” Danae continues. “Even for something as simple as a Sunday dinner, she managed to make the table look nice. I take after my mom when it comes to having people over to my home. Sometimes I’ll host a nice sit-down dinner for guests, and other times I’ll have a more casual gathering. But either way, like my mom, I enjoy creating a warm atmosphere where people feel welcomed — like they can kick off their shoes and get comfortable. I really believe that food and hospitality are important aspects of fellowship — they enhance the enjoyment of being together in community with others.”
When Shirley was a child, however, she didn’t have the benefit of having a consistent role model in the area of hospitality. “I didn’t grow up in a loving environment,” she explains. “My father had a severe drinking problem, so when guests came by for a visit, we never knew if my father would show up and embarrass us. I knew very early in life that, above all else, I wanted to have a loving, stable home when I grew up.” Sure enough, God fulfilled that dream — and now he has enabled her to pass on that legacy to her children as well.
A Legacy of Prayer
Hospitality isn’t the only blessing Shirley has given to the next generation. Danae’s life has also been enriched by her mother’s example of prayer.
“Prayer was an important part of the Dobson household,” Danae says. “We prayed together before meals, before bed, when we had a need — anytime. We also did Saturday morning devotions together — that was an important part of our weekly routine. Dad would read the Bible and we’d pray together as a family. As a kid, I sometimes felt constrained by that — I wanted to be out playing with my friends. But now, as an adult, I’m so glad my parents encouraged us to participate in those family activities and that my mom and dad instilled a pattern of prayer in us. I look back on those times with gratitude now.”
Prayer wasn’t just something Danae’s parents talked about — it’s an example they lived out in their day-today lives. “I remember times when my brother, Ryan and I would come home from an activity or a friend’s house at bedtime, and we’d find our parents on their knees in their bedroom, praying. Prayer was commonplace in our home.”
After a moment of reflection, Danae says, “I can’t think of anyone who would be a better fit as the chairman for the National Day of Prayer.”
Danae is not alone in this opinion. Shirley has been the chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force for more than two decades, since Vonette Bright (cofounder of Campus Crusade for Christ) asked her to consider taking on the position in 1990. But Shirley’s prayer journey began long before that invitation. “Ever since I was a small girl,” she says, “I have had a heart for prayer.”
Growing up in a dysfunctional family, she found her life forever changed when she went to Sunday school and a teacher told her about a God who knew her by name, heard all her prayers, and saw all her tears. Her prayer life started at the age of six, when she gave her heart to Christ. “That’s when I started kneeling by my bed at night, praying for my father to turn to God. Whenever my heart was breaking, I would cry out to my heavenly Father, confident that He loved me and cared about me and my situation.”
May 2 marks the 61st annual National Day of Prayer. But Shirley emphasizes that this isn’t just a one-day event. “We have an ongoing outreach to our volunteer coordinators throughout the year — the wonderful men and women who plan local and state events across the country,” she says. “Knowing there are so many believers who come before God regularly for the sake of our nation is a great source of strength and inspiration to me.”
Shirley admits that our country is facing difficult times right now, but she remains encouraged. “It’s easy to become distressed by the circumstances facing us as a country, but I’m hopeful when I see there is a strong and faithful remnant of God’s people who remain devoted to him and his Word.”
As for Me and My House …
When Danae was growing up, her mother hung up a framed print in their home that read, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Danae explains, “It was something tangible to signify that this was a Christian home — that there was something special that set us apart.”
Indeed, the home the Dobsons have created is a place where faith is cultivated, where prayers are brought before the Lord, where people are welcomed and nurtured and fed. And now that tradition carries on to the next generation.
There’s no doubt about it — God answered the prayers of that little girl who knelt in her bedroom all those years ago. Now that girl has grown up to leave behind a legacy of faith, hospitality, and prayer — a legacy she has passed on not only to her own children but also to the watching world.