Many Christians feel frustrated with prayer. Would you agree with this statement? If so, why might this be? Does prayer do any good? Does it really make a difference in my life and the circumstances around me?
Most know that prayer is a vital component of the Christian's life and is even mandated in Scripture, but it also seems to be the most inconsistent of practices.
This makes sense when considering the realities of living in a culture that pulls us away from a life of prayer. Author Paul Miller paints the picture this way:
"American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, "Get to work"(3).
Miller has given the church a great gift in his book A Praying Life. Readers will quickly resonate with the personal stories woven together with rich biblical content throughout the book. This is not a book on prayer that feels heavy, but one that compels you toward your heavenly Father in dependent and genuine prayer.
Miller's book is divided into five parts:
Learning to Pray Like a Child
Learning to Trust Again
Learning to Ask Your Father
Living in Your Father's Story
Praying in Real Life
He starts with the essence of prayer, which is that we are children praying to our Heavenly Father. He then moves on to barriers that keep us from trusting, such as cynicism and self-reliance. From there Miller guides us through the dynamics of approaching God in prayer and the practice of noticing how God is at work in the details of our daily lives. He concludes the book with a practical "system" of organizing your prayer life. This book is full of challenging content and encouragements to effect lasting change.
There were a few key takeaways for me from this book:
First, I learned how cynicism chokes out our spiritual lives. We breathe the air of cynicism and it affects us more than we probably realize. When he points out that this is the very opposite of childlike faith, it is no wonder that our prayer lives are running on fumes. This book packs a punch, and I found myself convicted of what was lacking in my own prayer life.
Yet, Miller reminds us of the Father of mercies who wants His children to simply enjoy being with Him in prayer. He uses Psalm 23 to illustrate the different ways of walking through hard times.
"Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd" (p73).
A second takeaway for me was regarding the verse from John 14:14, "Ask anything in my name and it will be given to you." Miller points out that this is not necessarily a "name it and claim it" way of praying, but instead it is a broadening of the types of things we typically pray about. How often do we only pray for major things? Major sickness, major stress, major financial strain, but so often leave many things unsaid to God. Why don't I "ask anything" and pray about food and traffic and the smallest of needs and provisions that surround me every day. It's this "ask anything" mentality that begins to broaden our scope of prayer and invites us into a more intimate and pervasive relationship with our Heavenly Father.
So, what are some reasons you might consider reading A Praying Life?
* Maybe you feel "stuck" in your prayer life.
* Maybe you feel lost in how to organize a prayer life and just keep losing momentum.
* Maybe you have gone through a difficult season that has left you weary and doubting.
* Maybe you feel uncomfortable praying in front of people.
A Praying Life will be an impactful book in your life and ultimately in the lives of those around you. I would strongly encourage you to purchase a copy and set aside a few months to read and digest its rich content. This book will bolster your faith in Jesus and leave you hopeful for a life that is enriched and fueled by honest prayer.