I struggle to pray. I get distracted. I get busy. I can come up with a million reasons why prayer is hard. The end result is a prayerless life, or at least a life with much less prayer than is needed.
God’s been at work in my life driving me to prayer. Books like Beloved Dust by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel and Prayer by Timothy Keller have helped. So has a growing sense of helplessness — a good thing, as it turns out.
I recently read A Praying Life by Paul Miller, and I’m glad I did. It’s one of the most practical books I’ve read on the subject, and is helping me overcome some of my struggles in prayer.
Miller begins by describing all the reasons that people don’t pray. We wonder if prayer does anything, and even if God is listening. Not only that, our efforts to pray fall short, because we tend to focus on prayer rather than on God, which is like focusing on the windshield while driving rather than on the road.
The rest of the book is divided into five parts. In part one, Miller helps us learn how to pray as a child. “Come overwhelmed with life. Come with a wandering mind. Come messy,” he writes. We can come to God as we are, asking, believing, playing, and without much to offer, just as children do.
In part two, Miller helps us overcome our cynicism, which he calls the dominant spirit of the age. We will not pray as long as we are cynical. Miller explains how Jesus cures our cynicism and leads us into trust.
In part three, Miller explores the ways we pray about everything — even the small things — in our daily lives, knowing that God is both infinite and personal. God cares about parking spots and the small annoyances of parenting, such as how our kids pour milk. Miller helps teach us how to ask God, and also helps us understand Jesus’ extravagant promises about prayer.
In part four, Miller guides us to consider our lives last part of the bigger story that God is creating. “Often when you think everything has gone wrong,” he writes, “it’s just that you’re in the middle of a story.”
Finally, in part five, Miller gives us practical tools on how to pray using prayer cards and a prayer journal. He helps us understand how to hear from God without over-relying on our intuition.
Miller writes honestly as someone who has struggled with prayer himself, but also as someone who has learned to pray. The book is steeped in the reality of family life, and is, as some have called it, kind of a prayer memoir. Rather than a weakness, I see this as a strength. It not only teaches about prayer, but illustrates its teaching with stories from his own life and family.
A Praying Life illustrates what a real, messy life looks like when it’s a life of prayer. It makes a praying life seem attainable, and a prayerless life unimaginable. If you, like me, would like your life to be a praying one, then I highly recommend this book. I wish I’d read it years ago.