A PRAYING LIFE: CONNECTING WITH GOD IN A DISTRACTING WORLD by Paul E. Miller
There are many books about prayer and many resources for learning to pray, yet A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller is the first I’ve read that made me feel fully adequate in my current prayer life. Not because I pray well, but because the one thing I do know is that prayer is one-on-one with a person – God Himself. I know that I can come to Him in any moment, whether desperate, anxious, totally wrecked, or totally cool with all of life. Prayer is simply a conversation with a holy God, made possible because Jesus sacrificed himself to redeem my own unholiness.
Yet what I’ve always struggled with is the “focus” aspect of prayer – the trying to pray but feeling distracted or, worse yet, too relaxed in the quiet. A Praying Life offers assurance that even this is acceptable to God.
Jesus taught that our faith should be like that of a child, and in A Praying Life, author Miller breaks this down even further by considering children themselves.
“If you ask a parent how long a one-year-old stays on task, he or she just smiles. It varies anywhere from three seconds to three minutes. It isn’t long, nor is it particularly organized.
How can that teach us to pray? Think for a minute. How do we structure our adult conversations? We don’t. Especially when talking with old friends, the conversation bounces from subject to subject. It has a fun, meandering, play-like quality. Why would our prayer time be any different? After all, God is a person.”
From releasing “adult” ideas of prayer to gaining new tools for praying scripture over my friends and family, A Praying Life has led me to a new way of interacting with our LORD. In each chapter, Miller teaches how to let go of what you think prayer should be in order to approach God as He wants us to. By the end of the book I was renewed and energized and coming to God with playfulness and a bold spirit. There’s no big mystery in praying to our Creator, and A Praying Life reminds us how to abide in Him through every situation in life.
A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. — Chapter 2: The Praying Life… Feels Like Dinner With Good Friends
Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of outer busyness we can develop an inner quiet. By spending time with our Father in prayer, we integrate our lives with his, with what he is doing in us. Our lives become more coherent. We feel calmer, more ordered, even in the midst of confusion and pressure. — Chapter 2: The Praying Life… Becomes Integrated
The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy. — Chapter 3: Become Like a Little Child
We are often so busy and overwhelmed that when we slow down to pray, we don’t know where our hearts are. We don’t know what troubles us. So, oddly enough, we might have to worry before we pray. Then our prayers will make sense. They will be about our real lives. Your heart could be, and often is, askew. That’s okay. You have to begin with what is real. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous. He came for sinners. All of us qualify. — Chapter 3: Become Like a Little Child
When your mind starts wandering in prayer, be like a little child. Don’t worry about being organized or staying on task. Remember you are in conversation with a person. Instead of beating yourself up, learn to play again. Pray about what your mind is wandering to. Maybe it is something that is important to you. Maybe the Spirit is nudging you to think about something else.
When it comes to prayer, we just need to get the words out. It’s okay if your mind wanders or your prayers get interrupted. Don’t be embarrassed by how needy your heart is and how much it needs to cry out for grace. Just start praying. The point of Christianity isn’t to learn a lot of truths so you don’t need God anymore. We don’t learn God in the abstract. We are drawn into his life.
When you stop trying to be an adult and get it right, prayer will just flow because God has given you a new voice – His own. [The Apostle] Paul told us that the Holy Spirit puts the praying heart of Jesus in you. You’ll discover your heart meshing with God’s. — Chapter 4: Learn to Talk With Your Father
Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don’t have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you can be doing something “productive.” So the act of praying means that you have to rely more on God. — Chapter 5: Spending Time With Your Father
We tell ourselves, “Strong Christians pray a lot. If I were a stronger Christian, I’d pray more.” Strong Christians do pray more, but they pray more because they realize how weak they are. They don’t try to hide it from themselves. Weakness is the channel that allows them to access grace.
If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else—a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it — Chapter 6: Learning to Be Helpless
You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit.
This is the exact opposite of Eastern mysticism, which is a psycho-spiritual technique that disengages from relationship and escapes pain by dulling self. Eastern mystics are trying to empty their minds and become one with the non-personal “all.” But as Christians we realize we can’t cure ourselves, so we cry out to our Father, our primary relationship.
Poverty of spirit makes room for his Spirit. It creates a God-shaped hole in our hearts and offers us a new way to relate to others. — Chapter 7: Crying “Abba”—Continuously
A praying life isn’t simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can’t even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus. — Chapter 7: Crying “Abba”—Continuously
A praying life engages evil. It doesn’t take no for an answer. The psalmist was in God’s face, hoping, dreaming, asking. Prayer is feisty.
At some point, each of us comes face-to-face with the valley of the shadow of death. We can’t ignore it. We can’t remain neutral with evil. We either give up and distance ourselves, or we learn to walk with the Shepherd. There is no middle ground.
Without the Good Shepherd, we are alone in a meaningless story. — Chapter 8: Bending Your Heart to Your Father
Majesty and humility are such an odd fit. This is one reason we struggle with prayer. We just don’t think God could be concerned with the puny details of our lives. We either believe he’s too big or that we’re not that important. No wonder Jesus told us to be like little children! Little children are not daunted by the size of their parents. They come, regardless. — Chapter 13: An Infinite-Personal God
Many of us wish God were more visible. We think that if we could see him better or know what is going on, then faith would come more easily. But if Jesus dominated the space and overwhelmed our vision, we would not be able to relate to him. Everyone who had a clear-eyed vision of God in the Bible fell down as if he were dead. It’s hard to relate to pure light.
Jesus stands at the edge of the story, unwilling to overwhelm [you] so that a richer, fuller [person] can emerge. He allows pain to continue for just a moment so Jesus the person can meet [you] the person. — Chapter 22: How God Places Himself in the Story
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Posted on 20 October 2013, in What I Read and tagged 31 days of blogging, books, Christianity, faith, How God Works, Jesus Christ, Life Unabridged, non-fiction, prayer, reading. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.