Archive for August 2012

What difference does it make?   Leave a comment

Continuing our look into “A Praying Life “ by Paul Miller one of the first questions he asks is, “ What good does it [prayer] do?” Like so much in this book, it is a question we have all asked often but rarely dared to utter out loud. Often our childlike faith gives way to cynicism in the wake of sincere prayers that seem to fall on deaf ears. As a consequence, deep down, there is a growing lack of confidence that prayer makes any difference.

Miller suggests that, in an attempt to get help we might visit an imaginary “prayer therapist”. Asked about what it means to be a child of God, we give a full account of the relevant doctrine. However when asked to describe what it feels like to spend time and talk with our Father…

“You cautiously tell the therapist how difficult it is to be in your Father’s presence, even for a couple of minutes. Your mind wanders. You aren’t sure what to say. You wonder, ‘Does prayer make any difference? Is God even there?’ Then you feel guilty for your doubts and just give up. Your therapist tells you what you already suspect. “Your relationship with your heavenly Father is dysfunctional. You talk as if you have an intimate relationship, but you don’t. Theoretically, it is close. Practically, it is distant. You need help.”

So how do we begin to reach for the type of prayer life that is described in the pages of our Bibles. Miller suggests we begin by realizing that prayer is first and foremost about relationship and to help us understand this he uses the image of a family meal    

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another.

But then so many of our family meals these days are rushed, taken at different times dependent upon our diverse and frantic schedules. Could it be that this feature of our home lives is reflected in our experience of relationship (or lack of it) with our Father in heaven? Could be at least part of the reason we don’t experience  “a praying life?”

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Posted August 31, 2012 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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The Praying Life   Leave a comment

Prayer has always been a challenge for me, and some years ago I committed myself to reading one book on prayer each year. As result I have read some really wonderful books (some of which I have listed at the end of the blog for your interest). Many of these have had a really significant influence on my prayer life and the book I am reading this year is no exception. In fact “A Praying Life “ by Paul Miller is challenging my prayer life more than any of the great books I have read in recent years. I say “is challenging” because although I have now finished the book I am already realizing that there are parts I must return to and read again. For this reason I thought I would share some of Miller’s insights with you over the next few weeks.

In his foreword David Powlinson whets our appetite with these words

“IT’S HARD TO PRAY. It’s hard enough for many of us to make an honest request to a friend we trust for something we truly need. But when the request gets labeled “praying” and the friend is termed “God,” things often get very tangled up. You’ve heard the contorted syntax, formulaic phrases, meaningless repetition, vague non-requests, pious tones of voice, and air of confusion. If you talked to your friends and family that way, they’d think you’d lost your mind! But you’ve probably talked that way to God.”

 

Tragically yes I have and I catch myself doing it all the time! Paul Miller however knows that it’s not meant to be that way and he has learned the hard way. He shares the lessons he has learned in the most challenging of all environments, his family. He explains in the introduction:

“The meat of the book is the family stories I tell. They are not dramatic; they’re nitty-gritty tales of surviving and thriving in a world of stress and disappointment. As you watch us, I hope you experience the presence of Jesus.”

I most certainly have experienced His presence and so I hope you will join the conversation with me. Perhaps you might even get your own copy of the book; I promise you will not regret it. So when you listen to yourself praying does it sound like a conversation you would have with someone who knows and loves you?

Books I have read and have found to be a great blessing (Most of these I have read once and continue to dip into frequently):

“Deepening your Conversation with God”             Ben Patterson

A wonderful account of a pastor’s struggle to build a meaningful prayer life. Honest and clear with many practical lessons.

“With Christ in the School of Prayer”             Andrew Murray

Written in 1895 this book has lost nothing over time. Its 31 lessons provide an immensely valuable month’s devotional or you can just sit down and read it!

“The Papa Prayer”             Larry Crabb

This book has changed my practice of prayer more than any other, and I nearly did not read it because I did not like the title!  If you only read one book on this list make it this one!

“Falling in Love with Prayer”             Mike Macintosh

A practical prayer guide from the heart of a pastor. Mike Macintosh was inspired to love to pray by his pastor Chuck Smith and he passes the lessons on to his readers along with his own developing experiences.

“Prayer- Does it make any Difference”            Philip Yancey

In true Yancey style he asks the difficult questions and is never satisfied with easy answers. An extensive yet reasonably easy to read look at the challenge of communication with God.

“Experiencing Prayer with Jesus”             Henry and Norman Blackaby

From a family of prolific authors this is a very helpful look at the prayer habits of Jesus as set out for us in scripture

“When God Prays”            Skip Heitzig

This book is from the Billy Graham library and focuses on probably the most remarkable prayer of all time. It would take a lifetime to plumb the depths of John 17 but this is not a bad place to start.

“Too Busy Not to Pray”             Bill Hybels

Great practical book. Can also be an excellent  book to read with your spouse, a couple of friends or as a small group study. (If you can read two this is No 2!)

“Prayer“ O Hallesby

Translated into English by Clarence Carlsen in 1931, I found this book on a give away table of books culled from the library. I am so glad they gave it away. It is a treasure!

“When God doesn’t answer your prayers”            Jerry Sittser

Sittser lost three members of his immediate family in a tragic drunk driving accident. His wrestling with this subject brings us insights tested in the fire

Posted August 18, 2012 by jolm15 in Uncategorized