Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Praying Life- Chapters 1-2

(A few friends and I are reading this book together.  Each week we will read two chapters and on Friday I will post my comments from the reading.  Others may add their thoughts in the comments section.  If you are interested in reading this book as well, here is the link for the Kindle version of the book.)

Chapters 1-2
[Just a couple notes of clarification before I actually start talking about the book.  When I've done these group reading projects in the past, I found that my posts were half book review and half comments on what I learned.  In the posts for this book I plan to focus on the benefit I received from the book and try to not write statements that sound like they would be in a book review.  Maybe that won't be as clear to you as it is to me, but once I settled that in my mind it helped me focus my comments.
Also, each week I will do my best to only point out the information that stood out to me the most.  I'm not wanting to write a chapter in discussing his two chapters!]

- I don't think I had ever considered the fact that an inability to pray or difficulty in praying is a result of the Fall. (Pg. 14, Loc. 200)  Maybe before I had the mindset of "I'm a Christian- I should be able to pray" whereas with this in mind I would see it as "This is yet another area damaged by sin, yet God can help us see growth and progress."

- He dealt with the problem of maintaining a prayer list. (Pg. 14, Loc. 200) I am facing this right now.  I have a notebook, but as the list grows I'm unsure which things to pray for.  I find I usually pray for the most recently added, and neglect the previous ones.  I tried an app for a little bit.  I like it- I can create several lists and have the app show me a designated number from the list each day.  That way, I'm cycling through the whole number of requests.  However, if I pray for a request too long, the phone screen turns off, so I'm constantly turning my phone back on.  The extra hassle with the smartphone has led me away from using it for now.  All that to say- this is where I am right now.  I look forward to his practical suggestions later in the book.

- I could relate to his fictitious prayer therapist.  The therapist said, "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." (Pg. 17, Loc. 245) I know in my head that I can have a close relationship with my Father, my Savior, my Creator, but that is not shown practically in my prayer life.

- I was helped by his saying prayer feels like a dinner with friends.  (Pg. 20, Loc. 274)  In that setting, I simply enjoy the relationships that surround me and conversation naturally comes from those relationships.  He helped remind me that prayer should be the same.  My conversation (prayer) should simply flow from my relationship with my Savior.

- "Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God."  (Pg. 20, Loc. 274)  Ouch!! I have done this and do this and didn't even see it before.

- Finally, I appreciated this perspective of unanswered prayers.  It gave me something to think on in that arena.  This is the quote: "Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives.  When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing.  What pattern is God weaving." (Pg. 22, Loc. 309)

That's what stood out to me.  What say you?


  1. I was given this book by another preacher a few years ago but had not yet read it. I'm excited to read it now as part of this group and I look forward to reading everyone else's thoughts as we go along!

    I was glad to see the author begin with the question: “What good does it do?” I will never give prayer it’s deserved attention until I understand it’s necessity. It’s all too easy for me to relegate prayer to nothing more than a daily task that needs to be accomplished before I go about my busyness. As he writes on page 16, “Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer do, and it is quicker and less time-consuming.”

    I also had highlighted the quote Jacob referred to about the mistake we make of focusing on praying instead of focusing on God. I thought that was too true, along with what he wrote on the following page (pg. 21) about making an “experience with God” our quest instead of getting to know Him.

    One last quote I appreciated for it’s honesty was on page 15 where he wrote:
    “Praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts. It was easier on our faith NOT to pray.”

  2. I am excited to be joining this reading project, and I am super excited about this book as prayer is something that God has especially impressed upon my heart the last year or so. I thought it was interesting how he described American culture as the hardest to really learn how to pray (pg.15). I agree that when we aren't working we often feel like we should be entertained, whether through TV, internet, or other leisurely activities. Because our flesh would much rather be entertained than do the spiritual work of prayer, it is easy to see why we struggle to maintain a consistently deep prayer life.

    I can also identify with the visit to the prayer therapist (pg.17). I think the hard truth is the reason we stay in a shallow prayer life is because we really don't desire God that much. Prayer is viewed as a duty & not a burning desire to know God intimately.

    I think he also nailed it when he said “A needy heart is a praying heart. Dependency is the heartbeat of prayer” (pg.24). I think we are all more self-sufficient than we realize, and when we can learn to live int that constant state of dependence on God, where we are always conscious of our weakness, then we can truly develop a praying life. We must cry out to God all throughout the day because we are constantly aware of our need for Him.

    Great stuff! Eager to read the next 2 chapters. . . . . .Will G

  3. I look forward to doing this book together. I think more deeply as I read, knowing I must write my thoughts later.

    "We don’t think prayer will make much difference." Great point. We often see prayer as outcome-based, rather than relationship based. While both are true, we tend to forget the second.

    The author does a good job describing the prayerlessness and the feelings and thoughts that accompany it. At times (sometimes regularly), I don’t feel like praying. While I have experience joy and beauty in prayer, it is not a regular occurrence. There are times we need to pray through the fog and lack of desire, but shouldn’t this be a rarity or an unusual occurrence? Perhaps the book will shed more on this.

    I appreciated his point that prayer is a dimension that touches all of life. If it is truly based on relationship, then God cares about each part of my life. Sometimes, I subconsciously feel that God cares more about certain areas of my life than other areas.

    His point about having a quiet heart, while a busy life goes on, is so true. I have come to understand and realize this in a limited way. I trust it will increase.

    One ongoing struggle for me is to list or not to list. I feel like a list is helpful for a time, but then my prayers become crusty and dry over time when I use a list. Perhaps he will cover this more as well.

  4. Chapter 1
    I am excited to start a book on prayer as it is a subject that is spoken of often, but that also produces so many questions. The first chapter summed it up well - "Prayer is confusing.”, "Just thinking about prayer ties us all up in knots."
    In my short time pastoring I can say this sums up well the feeling many Christians, myself included.

    Chapter 2
    "So don’t hunt for a feeling in prayer."
    Some of the best conversations I have had with loved ones were not emotionally charged, they were simple and to the point. This quote is a good thought to chew on for a while.

    "Because my Father controls everything, I can ask, and he will listen and act. Since I am his child, change is possible — and hope is born."
    A well put answer to the question of why pray when God is in control. Pray because he is in control. It seems like I have had this thought somewhere before, but this clarifies it in simple words.

  5. Ditto on many of the comments above. A couple other comments he made that I had not considered before but felt they had validity. One was his comment that people not only feel guilt from NOT praying, but many times guilt can come from actually praying. Due to our mind wondering, realizing we are just repeating words rather than thoughtfully talking with God, etc., we can end up feeling pretty guilty for our lack of quality communication with the One who loves us so much.

    He had made the comment, "And if we believe that God can talk to us in prayer, how do we distinguish our thoughts from his thoughts?" (loc 229). I was wondering if the author believes in continued revelation. Just something I want to keep my eyes open to through the book.

    I know there was a very popular study entitled "Experiencing God" back when I was in High School, but his statement "You don't experience God; you get to know him" made me stop and think. It is easy to chase after an experience (seeing "miracles," answered prayer, etc.) and miss the focus of knowing God.

    Having read some of Pastor Kent Brandenburg's teaching on prayer, I am somewhat in the dark on what prayer requests should be off limits. The author wrote, "Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives." (loc 309). When is unanswered prayer okay.... when are we not in the wrong when we ask for things that are not His will? I want to see what further teaching Paul Miller has on what we should or should not pray for.

    "Learning to pray doesn't offer us a less buy life; it offers us a less busy heart." (loc 330). This is a great goal to strive for.

    Looking forward to reading further.

    Just a thought. A believer here in Moldova was sharing with me how her spiritual life is such a small segment right now but the rest of living is taking up so much. I think prayer is the largest mixing tool that brings our spiritual life and blends it into every aspect of our life. It no longer feels like two entities but a homogeneous experience that Christ intended for us.