Takeaway: Practically, prayer is about investing in those around you. Developing a life of prayer requires that we have relationships that we want to seek after God for their benefit
If you want to learn about the variety of Prayer you should read Richad Foster’s Prayer.
If you want to motivation on why to prayer, especially as a pastor read EM Bounds.
If you want stories of how prayer makes a difference read Reese Howell: Intercessor.
If you want to see how prayer fits into spiritual disciplines overall read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.
If you want a book on how to develop a life of prayer read A Praying Life.
Not all books on prayer are good. But I have found that I can tell a lot about a book on prayer by just listening to the author talk about prayer. Often in the first couple chapters I can get a good idea about whether the author is writing out of deep experience in prayer, or out of theory of prayer. Prayer, more than almost any Christian discipline is learned through doing. Maybe that is why so few books on prayer are written by anyone under 50.
There is a running illustration throughout A Praying Life (christianaudio link) of Paul Miller’s daughter. He has several children and most of them seem to make an appearance. But the main character is his daughter Kim. She is autistic. Miller both spends lots of time talking about praying for his daughter and talking about what he has learned from his daughter. These illustrations provide some real depth, showing us that prayer is not about following steps, but following God. They also show frustration in prayer, God’s slowness to answer and the need for perseverance.
The author starts with several assumptions that are important to the rest of his A Praying Life (Amazon link). 1) Prayer is about a relationship with God, not about the technique of prayer. So to better pray, you should focus on God, not prayer. 2) Because relationship with God is the focus of prayer, prayer does not make us less busy people, but gives us a less busy heart. When we focus on God, what God focuses on becomes our focus. We may actually become more busy because we start seeing through God’s eyes.
“At root prayer is about dependence on God. We often think that great Christians pray a lot, so we strive to be a great Christian. But in reality great Christians are dependent on God, so they pray a lot.” (Paraphrase) This is a subtle but important distinction.
There is an extended discussion about the problems of modern cynicism and how to overcome it. I think for many Christians, this section is probably worth the price of the book. Miller gently pries our fingers away from the ledge and moves us toward a healthier view of the world. His final recommendation is grace. We should give the world (and the church) the type of grace that God has given us. We are fallen, the world and the church are fallen as well.
Ed Stetzer blogged/tweeted that “If we disciple through knowledge without action, we are training people to be puffed-up Gnostics.” One of my struggles with reading is actually putting what I read into practice. Not everything I read really needs to be put into practice. But this book is on the short list of books that really need to be put into practice. Like a few others, I have already purchased the kindle version and am scheduling a re-read in six months.
Disclosure: This book was provided free from christianaudio for purposes of review.
A Praying Life is the first of my Read Again (books that I re-read about six months after the original review.) My Praying Life Read Again Review.