I have a friend (greetings, Sonia!) who’s a champion pray-er. A while ago I had a chance to let her know how much I admired her prayerfulness and she told me that it was something she’d learned from her mum. She said her mum was someone who people knew to call on for prayer, and there’d always be notes around the house to remind her of others’ prayer points. I’ve always wanted to be better at prayer, but this conversation was the impetus I needed to translate those desires into action; that night I prayed that God would teach me to be prayerful so that my kids would learn the same lessons about prayer that my friend learned from her mum.
Around this same time, my mum bought A Praying Life by Paul Miller and passed it on to me to read first. That was months ago and it’s high time I returned it to her, particularly because I’ve been urging her to read it ever since I finished. It’s hard to let go of this book, though! It’s a book that needs to be studied rather than speedily read, and it’s also a book that I could read a hundred times over without it losing its freshness or ability to convict me. I’m a little bit in love with it. This book would be perfect for studying in a group, like a Christian book club, in order to glean even more wisdom and inspiration from its pages. I’m wondering if it would be almost blasphemous to suggest we study it instead of the Bible after my Friday group runs out of Psalms studies...
All aspects of prayer are covered in this book, including the reasons we don’t do it (cynicism is one, according to Miller), the reasons we should (including seeing God's story unfolding in our lives), and different ways to help with getting around to it (prayer cards and journaling are two of his tips). However the book is much deeper than this simplistic summary implies, so if nothing in there inspired you to read it, please ignore this whole paragraph (hopefully the next will be better).
Miller is someone who has struggled with prayer, so his style is understanding rather than bossy and by the end of it you feel motivated to pray rather than lectured and hopeless. I love reading Christian books that lead me to know God better and want to talk to Him more, especially those that focus on my relationship with God as the starting point to guide me away from my naturally legalistic tendencies.This is one such book.
I liked Miller’s suggestion of prayer cards as a practical prayer-helper so I made some, which included finding Bible verses for many of my prayer points and also, of course, colouring in. My ‘repentance’ card was the hardest one to make; the Holy Spirit was not at all hesitant in suggesting many sins to add to that one, and it’s made me realise how little time I’ve spent in the past confessing and repenting of my shortcomings. I look forward to one day in future reading back over all of these cards and seeing how God’s been at work in each and every one of the situations and people I’ve talked to Him about, and how He's changed me throughout the praying process.
This book should be compulsory reading for all Christians (along with The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson). God has used it to completely transform my prayer life, and that is a very good thing.