Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So I must not be the only one...

In response to my recent post on prayer, my childhood friend, Amanda, recommended a book called, A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. You know he's gotta have something semi-intelligent and engaging to say with a last name like that! :) So, I've been reading it lately and let me just tell you, I like it! It's fresh and real and could actually help me overcome some of my many prayer "issues." I don't agree with everything he says, but um... I'm kind of hard to get along with. I rarely agree with everything anyone says. ;) I'm going to write several posts about various things that have been eye-opening to me, but I wanted to begin with an excerpt that stated much more eloquently what I was trying to put into words in my last post. He begins his book with story about his teenage daughter who had lost her contact in the forest floor on a family camping trip. He said, "Let's pray," and her bitter response was, "What good does it do? I've been praying for Kim to speak, and she still isn't speaking." Kim is her younger sister who has autism and is unable to speak. He goes on to say this: Prayer was no mere formality for Ashley. She had taken God at his word and asked that he would let Kim speak. But nothing happened. Kim's muteness was testimony to a silent God. Prayer, it seemed, doesn't work. Few of us have Ashley's courage to articulate the quiet cynicism or spiritual weariness that develops in us when heartfelt prayer goes unanswered. We keep our doubts hidden even from ourselves because we don't want to sound like bad Christians. No reason to add shame to our cynicism. So our hearts shut down... The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself. We last for about fifteen seconds....and our minds are off on a tangent. We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying. Before we know it, it has happened again...Then guilt sets in. Something must be wrong with me. Other Christians don't seem to have this trouble praying. After five minutes we give up... Something is wrong with us. Our natural desire to pray comes from Creation. We are made in the image of God. Our inabilityh to pray comes from the Fall. Evil has marred the image. We want to talk to God but can't. The friction of our desire to pray, combined with or badly damaged prayer antaennae, leads to constant frustration. Complicating this is the enormous confusion about what makes for good prayer. We vaguely snese that we should begin by focusing on God, not on ourselves. So when we start to pray, we try to worship. That works for a minute, but it feels contrived; then guilt sets in again. In a burst of spiritual enthusiasm we put together a prayer list, but praying through the list gets dull, and nothing seems to happen. The list gets long and cumbersome; we lose touch with many of the needs. Praying feels like whistling in the wind. When someone is healed or helped, we wonder if it would have happened anyway. Then we misplace the list. 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 prayer is in shambles. Barely out of the starting gate, we collapse on the sidelines --cynical, guilty, and hopeless. I could go on and type out the rest of the chapter to show how well he articulates how I fell (but I think even what I've already done is copyright infringement so I should probably stop :)) . If you connect with this, seriously, buy the book. If you don't, seriously, help me out! :) I'm about half way done with the book and am excited to write about what God has been teaching me about himself and me. I've got a long way to go, but I'm determined to not let this area of my life just slide anymore. Please pray for me... then maybe if I have a breakthrough in this area I can attribute my praying life to prayer itself! :)

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