A Praying Life arrived in my mailbox unbidden, but divinely well timed. In a box of books sent from NavPress in satisfaction of an old subscription to their discipleship journal that had ceased publication, Miller’s book was on the bottom of the stack and unremarkable in its cover art. The gifts were distributed among friends and family, but I placed this book on the shelf to be read at some undetermined date. It wasn’t to be a long wait however, as something moved me to insert this into my reading rotation immediately. I’m very glad I did.
Paul Miller’s A Praying Life is simply a prayer guide for the majority of the modern church, most of whom do not have a regular time of communion with God. It is not a program, a method or a theological dissertation. Instead, Miller’s approach is to aimed square at the heart of the Christ follower who has shied away from prayer because he believes that it is too hard or time consuming. He speaks from the heart of a harried, burdened Christian who also stumbles and teaches the reader that prayer is not simply an appointment to be kept. It is a way of life that can become as natural as breathing.
Many in the Christian community keep themselves from prayer because they see the challenges as insurmountable. The literature on prayer is wide and deep, and depending on the books that you select, it is easy to become discouraged and turn away from the practice. Picking up Bounds, you look at your life and wonder how you would find hours per day to pray. Hybels sets out a formula (ACTS) that is perfect for some but constraining for others who attempt to steer the thoughts of their heart into the framework instead of pouring them out to God. Foster gives us 21 types of prayers, all biblical and wonderful but a challenge for the Christian to remember and apply on a daily basis. Each of the authors has enriched my life, but I find it difficult to recommend them to the majority of Christians I come in contact with.
Miller takes a different approach to the privilege of prayer. He begins our discipleship in the art of prayer by turning us back to our childhood and encouraging us to speak to our heavenly Father in the same, open, unguarded fashion we once spoke to our earthly fathers. We didn’t worry about form and just told him what was on our minds. Why would God be any different? Beginning in this way we learn to crave the time with Him, worrying less about content and simply develop a comfort in the moments spent together. Without this foundation, Christians find it difficult to develop a more mature approach to prayer.
Prayer is hard, as is life as a child of God. Our Father says no, He has periods of silence that stretch for months on end and He can call us to obedience in ways that we wrestle against in resentment. It is easy for us to remember the chapters of the Bible in which prayer is immediately answered in a positive way, yet we are quick to forget the dark night in Gethsemane where the Lord cried out for His Father to take the cup from in but received a no in response. By intertwining experiences from his own life, Miller helps us to get over this hurdle that stops many Christians in their attempts to build a life of prayer. He shows that answers may not come, they may be no or that the answer may be several years separated from the supplication. The foundation that he built in the initial pages supports the broken heart of those disappointments and long winters of wait.
Whether you posses shelves of books on prayer or are seeking a new start, A Praying Life is an outstanding book to include in your library. You will read it once and be immediately moved to read it again at a slower pace, seeing and considering the parallels between your own life and that of Mr. Miller’s. This is prayer guide that should become a part of many church discipleship programs.