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A Praying Life

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Last night I started a book on prayer called “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. Here is what I have figured out: I stink at prayer. Do I like to pray?  Yes, most of the time I do, but I don’t feel like I am any good at it.

Here are some of my issues: After only a few seconds I find myself distracted and I really have to work hard to pay attention to my own prayers. In the end I feel a little guilty that I wasn’t able to focus on God for more than a couple of minutes. I often wonder if I have prayed long or hard enough. If I have enough faith or the right words. Sometimes I am afraid that I am nagging, or whining. Other times I worry that I come across as complaining or being unthankful.

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way, and Miller unpacks more reasons so many of us struggle with the discipline of prayer.

He says that some, “in a burst if spiritual enthusiasm put together a prayer list,” but those end up boring us and “nothing seems to happen…. When someone is healed or helped, we wonder if it would have happened anyway. Then we misplace the list.”

Miller also point out that, “praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts. It was easier on our faith not to pray. After only a few minutes our prayers are in shambles, barely out of the staring gate, we collapse on the sidelines – cynical, guilty, and hopeless.”

Here is an observation Mr. Miller makes about the culture we live in and how it effects our prayer. He says,

American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray.  We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work.”

We might never say that out loud, but isn’t it so true?  Don’t we often feel like we need to hurry up and pray so we can scratch it off of our to-do list and move on to something else? Even though we know Christ, our relationship with God is still a little dysfunctional. Communicating with God is hard and sometimes awkward.

All of this came out of the first chapter of the book. His insight into how we mess up prayer is so accurate, and I can’t wait to find out what he has to say positively about prayer. Actually I am hopeful that this book will help me to learn to love praying, to look forward to it and to be excited about talking to God without feeling rushed or guilty.

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