Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Praying Life by Paul Miller

OK, this has to be the best book on prayer I've read yet. Paul Miller in A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World explains everything so simply, yet biblically, taking away the awkwardness and the anxiety usually found in the practice. Often "scholars" have treated prayer with such lofty theological ideals that it lost all genuineness and actual communion with God. Just listen to the simple beauty in which he describes prayer to be.
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. 
Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center.

Miller, Paul (2009). A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Kindle Locations 376-382). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

One of the points Paul makes is that prayer can't be separated from life. The two must work together, a praying life.
Because prayer is all about relationship, we can’t work on prayer as an isolated part of life. That would be like going to the gym and working out just your left arm. You’d get a strong left arm, but it would look odd. Many people’s frustrations with prayer come from working on prayer as a discipline in the abstract.
We don’t learn to pray in isolation from the rest of our lives. For example, the more I love our youngest daughter, Emily, the more I pray for her. The reverse is true as well; the more I learn how to pray for her, the more I love her. Nor is faith isolated from prayer. The more my faith grows, the bolder my prayers get for Jill. Then, the more my prayers for her are answered, the more my faith grows. Likewise, if I suffer, I learn how to pray. As I learn how to pray, I learn how to endure suffering. This intertwining applies to every aspect of the Christian life.
Since a praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives, learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. What does it feel like to grow up? It is a thousand feelings on a thousand different days. That is what learning to pray feels like.

Miller, Paul (2009). A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Kindle Locations 383-392). NavPress. Kindle Edition.
In intertwining prayer into our lives the author suggest looking for Jesus and the story God is working in and around us. Much of the book is his examples of this in his own life, showing how God was preparing  and changing him in good times and bad. Seeing the big picture, so to speak, allows us to have hope in times that look bleak, and patience when the light seems as though it will never come. While trying to live in this story Paul offers these three important pieces of advice.
1. Don’t demand that the story go your way. (In other words, surrender completely.)
2. Look for the Storyteller. Look for his hand, and then pray in light of what you are seeing. (In other words, develop an eye for Jesus.)
3. Stay in the story. Don’t shut down when it goes the wrong way.

Miller, Paul (2009). A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Kindle Locations 2590-2593). NavPress. Kindle Edition.
Another idea that Paul Miller has implemented in his own life, and suggests to others, is the use of prayer cards. He keeps cards for different members of his family, others for friends, some for unsaved, and so. On these he lists a few things he wants to be reminded to pray for specifically and maybe a verse to meditate upon. This practice helps to keep prayers moving and personal. Having things written down and frequently reviewed allows him to see more clearly when God works and answers individual requests.

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World is a must read. There is a wealth of encouragement and instruction contained therein that no book review can do it justice. My prayer is that I can begin to implement these practices in my life and experience the intimacy of a praying life.

I'll leave you with one last quote exposing the simplicity of prayer, and yet the difficulty in doing so.
There is nothing secret about communion with God. If we live a holy life before God, broken of our pride and self-will, crying out for grace, then we will be in communion with God. It is really that simple.

Miller, Paul (2009). A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Kindle Locations 3129-3131). NavPress. Kindle Edition.
It's just that easy! : )
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