I wish I had read this book 30 years ago so that by now I would have re-read it several times. As faithful as I have tried to be to my spiritual habits, personal prayer has often eluded me and felt dry and mechanical. I've read books about it and talked to friends about it, but there was always a disconnect between the idea of prayer (and now I realize my misconceptions about prayer) and the reality of a regular prayer life. Paul Miller's gift in this book is to bring prayer into the realm of a real person's real life by lifting the burden of legalism and formulas and the notion that there's a right way to pray and a wrong way to pray. That's like telling a child he can only talk to his parent in one way or the parent will ignore him!
Here are some of my take-aways from this book:
- I need to talk to God in the same way and with the same attitude I would use in speaking to a trusted friend or loved one.
- I need to stop worrying about whether I've carved out the proper prayer time or quiet time and just start talking to God whenever or wherever it occurs to me. “Prayer is meant to be the conversation where your life and your God meet.” “Talking life over with this on-scene God is the sort of conversation worth calling ‘prayer.'”
- I need to stop categorizing the things that are worthy–or not worthy–of prayer and remember that God cares about every aspect of my life. If it matters to me, it matters to Him.
- Meaningful prayer is not achieved by focusing on prayer itself but on God. “In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it.”
- Prayer is not an isolated part of life. “Many people's frustrations with prayer come from working on prayer as a discipline in the abstract.”
- Prayer is not supposed to take us out of the world. Prayer is a tool for connecting with God in the midst of our life's craziness. My favorite quote from the whole book is this: “Learning to pray doesn't offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of outer busyness, we can develop an inner quiet.”
Now that is a goal worth praying for!
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