Book Review: A Praying Life

One of the things we've been thinking about as a leadership team in our churches is encouraging people to pray. Clearly it should be a Christian priority as it was for Jesus and his disciples (e.g Mark 1:35; 14:32-40; John 17; Matthew 6:5-15; Philippians 4:6-7). However, most of us find prayer a bit difficult.

The church has various things to help. We pray together in services fairly formally. We pray together at Praise and Prayer fairly informally. We've had a set of informal services based around prayer.

However, in Philippians 4:6 Paul writes: “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV) and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 he instructs us to “pray continually” (NIV). He exemplifies this, as we see in his letters, which are peppered with his prayers for the churches. So prayer should be more than church run events. Prayer should, it seems, be part of life.

This is where the book A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller comes in. It is a book aimed to encourage prayer that is integrated and connected to all of life. The book has 5 main sections:

  1. Learning to Pray Like a Child – which focuses on our relationship with our Father.
  2. Learning to Trust Again – which deals with our cynicism, the “does prayer make any difference anyway?” question.
  3. Learning to Ask Your Father – which gets us to deal with why we find it difficult to ask for things in general, why we don't ask for some specific things and how our relationship with God should change our attitude to asking.
  4. Living in Your Father's Story – which is about understanding how prayer fits into the big picture of God's plans for us and our world. In this section Miller looks at some of the questions about prayer not being answered and prayer when we can't see a big picture.
  5. Praying in Real Life – gives some practical tools to help develop a praying life.

The book is written is short, easy to read chapters that are biblically faithful, engagingly written and very down to earth. Miller is especially good at showing what he's teaching being worked out in his own life, with his wife, children, work and ministry. Particularly moving are the sections that refer to his daughter Kim who was born and has grown up with a number of problems. This is a praying life worked out in real life!

I think the only chapter I had some queries about was chapter 29, entitled "Listening to God."  Miller argues for Word and Spirit working together so that the Spirit personalizes God's general Word (the Bible) to our situation, so applying it.  I agree with that, it's just that the language he uses then implies that this specific application is God speaking.  I think I want to keep the speaking language for Scripture and all the weight that comes with it being Scripture (authority, inerrancy etc.), although he does deal with some of these questions. 

If you struggle with prayer (like the rest of us!) and want something to refresh you in you relationship with God, then A Praying Life might be a good place to start.


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