My four year old loves all things spidery, lizardy, snakey, or reptilian. I had night terrors involving arachnids as a child, so that makes me a less-than-ideal boy mom, but whatever. He acquired a baby lizard recently, and while talking him out of keeping it (What will we feed it, honey? Inside, I am thinking, Salmonella!!), we purchased a $2 toy lizard to ease the pain. But when we went swimming on Labor Day as a family, the toy lizard got lost in the shuffle. Ben was heartbroken about it as we climbed into our minivan to leave the pool.
Finally, I told him to pray with his big sister (six) while Daddy and I got out to take one more look. As we headed back to the pool area, I prayed God, you know how this matters to him. Please help us find this silly thing, for Benjamin. We circled the pool, and checked one final spot–the filter. There was the lizard. Ben’s joy over being reunited with the lizard was multiplied by his answered prayer.
Silly, right? I mean, it could have easily gone the other way, and I could have told you God was using the lizard to teach Ben responsibility. But I’ve been reading Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life, and it has challenged some of my cynicism that builds up towards prayer.
Guilt is the typical approach to sermons or books on prayer. I recently drove past a church marquee sign that read, “Prayer should be more than a wish list.” I think most of us would agree with that, but it has to start somewhere. We don’t grow into Pauline pray-ers overnight. I think it’s ok to start with the wishlist if you need to. Start a conversation with God. Paul Miller writes, “When we stop being ourselves with God, we are no longer in real conversation with God.”
In Miller’s book, he does not resort to guilt-trips. Paul Tripp, in reviewing the book says, “This is a book on prayer that actually makes you want to pray!” How novel! I completely agree with him. This book began bearing prayer fruit in my life right away.
Paul Miller and his wife Jill are lifelong veterans of prayer. They raised six children and share candidly in this book about the struggles of raising a child with severe autism, and the role of prayer in that struggle. This book does not perpetuate the “name it and claim it” kind of prayers, but shares wisdom from a lifetime of seeking, knocking, and asking, and not always hearing the answer they wanted. He writes, “Jill and I pray because we are helpless against the onslaught of life. When I pray over a problem, that problem begins to sparkle with the energy of God. Strange things happen.”
I highly recommend this book as a tremendously encouraging resource on prayer. I could not read it without my highlighter handy to capture so many things I wanted to remember. I’ll end with a few of my favorite quotes:
Everyone talks now about how prayer is relationship, but often what people mean is having warm fuzzies with God. Nothing wrong with warm fuzzies, but relationships are far richer and more complex.
We can’t pray effectively until we get in touch with our inner brat. When we see our own self-will, it opens the door to doing things through God. Instead of singing Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way,” we enter into God’s story and watch him do it his way. No one works like Him.
You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit.