As I am beginning to thread together thoughts for upcoming teachings on prayer, I have found the book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller (Miller, Paul E. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. 2009, Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press Publishing. 2009), a refreshing take on this mind-boggling subject.
My introduction to this teaching reflects what I believe the LORD is revealing to my heart for this study:
This is not going to be another “How To Pray” study. There are plenty of those studies and I have found that it only results in putting the Holy Spirit into a box, which becomes law and creates guilt and self-condemnation. Prayer is outside the realm of the “how-to” and can only be observed through the mysterious power and working of the Holy Spirit in us as He is working to will and to do of His good pleasure.
What’s the Point of Praying?
I thought I would share some of the thoughts from Paul E. Miller’s gem of a book:
If God is sovereign, then he is in control of all the details of my life. If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good. If he is all-wise, then he’s not going to do everything I want because I don’t know what I need. If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this. When we put all these things together—God’s sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience—we have a divine story. …
People often talk about prayer as if it is disconnected from what God is doing in their lives. But we are actors in his drama, listening for our lines, quieting our hearts so we can hear the voice of the Playwright. You can’t have a good story without tension and conflict, without things going wrong. Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing. What pattern is God weaving? If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static. We are no longer paralyzed by life; we can hope. …
Many Christians give in to a quiet cynicism that leaves us unknowingly paralyzed. To ask God for change confronts us with our doubt about whether prayer makes any difference. Is change even possible? Doesn’t God control everything? If so, what’s the point? Because it is uncomfortable to feel our unbelief, to come face-to-face with our cynicism, we dull our souls with the narcotic of activity. Many Christians haven’t stopped believing in God; we have just learned to function with God at a distance. … (Ibid: Introduction)
But I’m Too Busy for a Praying Life!
The common response to the question of when to pray is often “I’m so busy; I don’t have time.”
But even a cursory glance at Jesus’ life reveals a very busy life. Many teach that we must make time for a contemplative life. However, this quest can actually be self-absorbed, focused on my quiet time and me. 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. By spending time with our Father in prayer, we integrate our lives with His, with what He is doing in us. Our lives become more coherent. They feel calmer, more ordered, even in the midst of confusion and pressure. (Ibid.)
I think I am going to enjoy this teaching. An excerpt of the direction my thoughts are going so far resonated with the Miller book, and here is a sample of my thoughts so far:
Praying is Like Dinner with Friends or Family
True praying life feels like dinner with good friends. When Jesus describes the intimacy He wants with us, he talks about joining us for dinner. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and with with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). Not coincidentally, He is speaking in this passage to a last day’s church called the Laodicean Church—a church that is lukewarm, apathetic. He is saying to this church, which describes many of our current American churches, “Look, all you have to do it to open the door again! I am ready, I want to fellowship with you again. I want to dine with you. Won’t you please open the door to Me again? I miss you! I miss eating with you.”
This is interesting considering that many of today us eat on the fly—fast food; ordering pizza and watching TV; we stop at McDonald’s and eat in the car on the way to the next event on our crowded schedules. We have no time for long, leisurely dining, which coincides perfectly with this verse. We don’t dine with our families, so we have lost the whole concept of what dining together really means. More recently this has gone another step downhill: We eat with family or friends in a restaurant and spend a good percentage of our time looking at our cell phones, checking email, texting.
In ancient times, dining together was an important part of the rich culture. If a stranger came to your door and you invited them in, they were invited to your table to dine; they were treated as part of the family. A host would rarely turn away a stranger, and no matter what the stranger was guilty of, the host would entertain them and invite them to the family table. This is still true in the Middle East. When I was in Israel in 2001, we took cabs many times and sometimes the driver’s would be Arab and sometimes they would be Jewish. They loved to have conversations with Americans and bypassing the usual small talk, they would plunge right into political or religious talk. I found the lack of social political correctness refreshing. A couple of times, we were invited to share a meal in their home—the home of the cabdriver who was simply doing his job transporting us from one place to another. That is the way hospitality works in the Middle East, or at least it was in 2001.
So, the invitation by Jesus to open the door and invite Him in to dinner takes on a whole new concept for us. We are the hosts; He is the guest and many of us have been very poor hosts over these past several decades. Technology has replaced conversation; eating on the run has replaced dining. What are we to do about this dilemma? Can we do anything to change it?
Will You Be Praying for Me?
Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. While you’re at it, would you say a prayer for this teaching? Teaching on the subject of prayer can get very loaded and heavy and it is my heart to bring it all back to Jesus.