For sometime I have been slowly trudging through a book on Prayer, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, by Paul E. Miller. Paul is the Director of a Christian ministry SeeJesus which focuses in on interactive Bible Studies and presenting teaching workshops. Their website is seejesus.net they have free resources and resources for purchase. As a Christian I believe prayer is an important part of our life journey.
I purposely read the book in a slow manner as I wanted to think through what he was saying. His book had a completely different feel to it in that he is very open about his prayer life and admits that prayer is a difficult thing to do. He is honest about the cynicism that can come into our prayer life as we see nothing happening so why bother. The author points out that Jesus calls us to a journey of faith and prayer is a big part of that journey. We are encouraged to move beyond our cynicism and pride to embrace our neediness, “Don’t be embarrassed by how needy your heart is and how much it needs to cry out for grace. Just start praying.” So the call is to move beyond the distractions and hardships of life and step out in faith.
A couple things that stand out to me is mid way through the book he discusses “Good Asking”. He points out in James 4:2-3 the text reads “You do not have because you do not ask.” And “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” These are problems we have with prayer as if we are honest we can complain God is not doing anything in our life but we are not asking for His help. Then on the other hand sometimes of our prayers are as selfish as a child rattling of a long list of presents on Santa’s lap like God is just our errand boy. We need to strike a balance between not asking or being totally selfish. He sees the answer to both by having a prayer attitude of asking boldly and at the same time surrendering completely to God.
Miller makes a point that ,”All of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Gospels can be summarized with one word: ask. Jesus’ greatest concern is that our failure or reluctance to ask keeps us distant from God. God wants to give us good gifts. He loves to give." Miller backs this us by pointing us to the parables of Jesus about the persistent widow who kept pleading with the judge in the story for help. You can read the whole story in Luke 18:1-8 . He also points to the parable of the man bothering a neighbor at night for some bread for his houseguest, see Luke 11:5-8 . These thoughts from Jesus point to the fact that just like people will answer persistent asking; how much more will God answer the prayers of His people.
Another thing I enjoyed about the book is his emphasis on the power of story. This is one important aspect I believe about living more than ok is to understand that each of our stories are important. Paul Miller understands that prayer is part of the story. He shows that those who pray with no thought that God is working a story in them are often bitter, angry, aimless, cynical, controlling, hopeless, thankless, blaming. On the other hand those who are open to God’s story and seeing His story work through them in their prayer life are waiting, watching, wondering, praying, submitting, hoping, thankful and repenting. This concept of prayer as part of God’s story in us relates to near the end of the book the author brings up an idea of a prayer journal or making prayer a part of your journaling. Here are some of his thoughts on prayer journaling, “When life makes sense it becomes a journey, a spiritual adventure. Writing down the adventure as it happens gives us a feel for our place in the story God is weaving in our lives, …Many of us rush around without much conscious knowledge of the pilgrimage God is carving out for us.. So we slog through life, missing the Divine touches.” Life can not be boring and cynical if we are open to seeing God’s moments in our lives. To notice these God moments, we need to be living a life of faith and mindfully aware that He is involved in our journey. Prayer is needed in our distracting world that we wake up to every day.
Reflection: Where are you at in your prayer life with the balance between asking boldly and being submissive to God’s will in your life? Take some time to journal about the concept of prayer being part of God’s story in your life.