Monday, May 20, 2013

A Praying Life

A Praying Life, Paul Miller

If Carson wrote a theologically practical treatise on prayer from Paul’s letters, Paul Miller has written a personal account of how he has learnt to pray over the years and how he has seen God continually work through prayer and the lives of others.

This is a book that convicts you to pray, to pray often and to pray well. I would finish a chapter and want to pray, not because I felt I should, but because I wanted to, and that is probably my highest recommendation of this book: it had me wanting to pray immediately.

Miller’s prayer life has been very shaped by his own family and their struggles. He is very open about the challenges they faced, especially raising a disabled daughter. He knows God led him & his family through this experience to teach them a prayerful dependence on Him, for there was no other way forward.

It is biblical, honest, realistic and purposeful. He deals with issues that many Christians face such as:
  • How do we deal with Jesus’ extravagant promises about prayer?
  • What about when God doesn’t answer prayer?
  • Why we find it hard to ask God for some things?
I found I had to read it with pen and paper to follow through the structure logically. The sections and chapter headings were not entirely obvious and because he used language that I tend not to use (eg. Living in your Father’s story), it took me some time to ‘translate’ it for myself. Having said that, this is great book full of good ideas and personal reflections for anyone who wants to think about prayer and to then turn to praying.

As with any book, I had some hesitations. He was surprisingly critical of the ACTS prayer system (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) and indeed of any system, yet went on to advocate prayer cards and prayer journaling in detail. I thought there was too little emphasis on how we can use scripture itself to teach us to pray, on praising God himself for his character and works and on praying more widely than our personal circles.

Overall though, it is a great book. Some quotes to whet your appetite:
“One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does, and it is quicker and less time-consuming. Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us structurally independent of God.” (p16)

“Many assume that the spiritual person is unruffled by life, unfazed by pressure…even a cursory glance at Jesus’ life reveals a busy life… If we love people and have the power to help, then we are going to be busy. 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” (p23)

“Praying out loud can be helpful because it keeps you from getting lost in your head. It makes your thoughts concrete. But it is more than technique; it is also a statement of faith. You are audibly declaring your belief in a God who is alive.” (p48)

“Prayer is where I do my best work as a husband, dad, worker, and friend. I’m aware of the weeds of unbelief in me and the struggles in other’s lives. The Holy Spirit puts his fingers on issues that only he can solve. I’m actually managing my life though my daily prayer time. I’m shaping my heart, my work, my family – in fact, everything that is dear to me – through prayer in fellowship with my heavenly Father. I’m doing that because I don’t have control over my heart or life or the hearts and lives of those around me. But God does.” (p257)

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