If I’m totally honest with myself, a book about the topic of prayer would typically make my eyes glaze over with boredom. Or is it my heart glazed over with cynicism?
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Don’t get me wrong. I pray. I believe in God. In fact, I believe in a sovereign, personal, loving God who hears our prayers and answers them. But, I frankly hadn’t given sustained thought about the why and how of prayer before reading A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World. Perhaps lurking beneath my boredom with the topic is a form a cynicism embedded in the heart of most red-blooded Americans, which Paul Miller sheds light on in one of the chapters.
Anyway, after the 106th person recommended this book to me (including Polly), I finally buried my boredom, cynicism, and pride and read it. As my friend, Sam, said the other day about another book, “You know how some books are just a ‘game changer’ for you? Well, this one is that.” That’s exactly how I feel about A Praying Life. I’m fairly sure because of what I learned/am learning about praying from this book, I’m a better parent (and wife, friend, Christian, etc).
Miller weaves his own family’s story (he has six kids, one of whom is autistic) in with Biblical stories and principles about prayer, along with tons of practical application ideas. From why we should pray, to how to pray, to ways God answers prayer, this book covers it all. But not in some rote, dry commentary-ish sort of way. Instead, it’s an attractive, real and applicable treatise on the subject.
Perhaps most importantly, this book does not make you feel guilty! Prayer is not one more thing to add to the Christian list. No, no. The biblical picture Miller paints of our loving Father who is full of grace and mercy, draws you to Him. Miller encourages us to come to God just as we are–messy, selfish, weak. God longs for us to come as little children would, asking without pretense. This perspective is so freeing and inviting!
Finally, like my post title says, A Praying Life is the best parenting book I’ve read lately (although this one and this one are close runners up). I’ll leave you with just one of the many principles I gleaned about parenting, among other “game changers”, to give you an idea of what to expect.
Miller claims that our best parenting is done “from our knees“. Here’s what he writes,
“It took me seventeen years to realize I couldn’t parent on my own. It was not a great spiritual insight, just a realistic observation. If I didn’t pray deliberately and reflectively for the members of my family by name every morning, they’d kill one another. I was incapable of getting inside their hearts…But even more, I couldn’t change my self-confident heart….As I began to pray regularly for the children, he began to work in their hearts…I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids and more to God. It was actually quite relaxing” (p. 59, emphasis mine.)
Miller goes on to explain that when we pray, God not only works in the lives of those we pray for but He also changes us, the pray-er. God exposes our own sin (which is often the same thing we are frustrated about in our kids!) and helps us to grow and begin to respond differently to our children.
This parenting point from the book just scratches the surface of the wisdom encapsulated in it. I plan to re-read A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World again, with the hopes that it feels less like drinking from a fire hydrant the second time around. Until then, Nathan (my husband) and I are trying to apply this take home parenting point–“speak less to the kids and more to God.” Miller’s right…it is more relaxing.