This year I’ve been seeking to grow in my prayer life. I started looking up for resources on this topic, and almost every time someone recommended books on prayer, “A Praying Life” would be on the list.
I’d never heard of Paul E. Miller before, but a lot people I follow were recommending him (including J. I. Packer and Tim Keller in the back cover) and I decided to order his book.
Many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. (p. 20)
Let me say this: I am a big book scribbler, but “A Praying Life” has only a few marks on it. And all of them in the first few chapters. The flow of the book is so smooth I didn’t even think of pausing for a second to write something. I just wanted to keep reading.
Paul encouraged me to actually live a praying life; not by making me feel guilty because I wasn’t giving it the priority it deserves, but by showing me everything I was missing out on.
So don’t hunt for a feeling in prayer. Deep in our psyches we want an experience with God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him. You enjoy him. He is, after all, a person. (p.21)
I am a very analytic person. I love to think and I love that God asks us to love him with all our minds (Matthew 22:37). But that love for thinking and knowing and understanding only goes so far.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
This eager to understand was holding me down in my prayer life. We can’t fully grasp how prayer works. We know we can’t bend God’s will with our words, we know He knows everything we need before we speak… still, He wants us to pray, He commands us to pray. And to pray believing He will answer.
“A Praying Life” helped me to embrace feeling like a child.
I’d noticed that the last few months, my morning prayer would start almost the same way: “Father, please let me be holding on to you. I can’t do this day on my own. Let it not be me, but you.”
I wondered if God didn’t get tired of my prayer. Of course, He didn’t. As we grow spiritually we get more aware of our helplessness and we hold on to God more and more.
The author also gives us practical advice to handle our prayer requests using prayer cards (aren’t we all tired to lie, “I’ll be praying for you”?). Of course, you don’t have to do it exactly as he says; you could use Miller’s technique with an Evernote twist, I’m more a Post-it kind of girl.
The glib way people talk about prayer often reinforces our cynicism. We end our conversations with “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” We have a vocabulary of “prayer speak,” including “I’ll lift you up in prayer” and “I’ll remember you in prayer.” Many who use these phrases, including us, never get around to praying. Why? Because we don’t think prayer makes much difference. (p.14)
I can’t say I agree with every single word Miller wrote, but I surely can say he spoke directly to my soul. My prayer life will reflect what I really believe about prayer, about God. And yours too.
Fortunately for us, our Lord is full of mercy. He sees us like the clumsy children we are. And He is always there to hear.
I am thankful for Paul Miller and his ministry.