Nearly every Christian I know, and perhaps those of other faiths as well, feel they are rank beginners in this matter of prayer. It is not only the making of time and space for prayer in our lives, but also confronting the distractions we face when we pray, the struggle to figure out what we ought say, and wondering whether we will be heard–is anyone there?
I cannot say A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World was the best book on prayer I’ve read. I would give pride of place to Ole Hallesby’s Prayer and John White’s Daring to Draw Near: People in Prayer. However this is a very practical guide to prayer that many will find helpful because of how open and vulnerable the author is about his own prayer journey.
One of the big issues Miller deals with in this book is our prevailing cynicism about prayer that prevents us from trusting God with the most basic details of our lives. Does God really care? Can God really do anything? His most powerful example of overcoming this is describing his prayer journey in praying for his daughter Kim, who suffers from a developmental disability. Throughout the book, he relates instances of praying for God’s help in dealing with aspects of her disposition, including a habit of waking in the night and pacing. Slowly, with Kim, and others in his household, he learns to trust God to transform them rather than trying to do this himself.
At its root, Miller teaches that prayer is an acknowledgement of our helplessness and that this is actually good news. We are helpless to change the character of others or even our own character. Often we face situations that are beyond our control or ability to change, and even the ones we think we control may are often far more complicated than we acknowledge. He encourages us to take seriously Jesus’ extravagant promises for those who abide in him. This means our wants are shaped by what Jesus wants. At the end of the day, he encourages us to ask with the freedom of children for the wants we find in our hearts as we’ve been abiding in Christ. This is not “name it/claim it” theology but rather the boldness and freedom that arises in relationship.
He concludes his work with sharing his use of index cards in praying for people and the ways he prayer journals. What is most winsome throughout the book is that Miller keeps it real and shares how he actually prays as a result of scripture and his own prayer journey.
Note: Also posted as Review: A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World on Bob on Books (Bob Trube. 3/3/2014).
Editor’s comment (Thomas B. Grosh IV): Last summer I had the opportunity to be in a small group led by Paul E. Miller at a Joni & Friends Family Camp. It was the second year that I was blessed to see him serve his family. But in this more intimate gathering, I have opportunity to have him share his “timeless” index cards and encourage fathers such as myself in a praying life. May each and every one of us press on in a praying life, living in relationship with God in a distracting world (both internally and externally). May we not fall asleep in the midst of the hours of great struggle and temptation. To God be the glory!