Monday, November 29, 2010

Looking AT the windshield instead of THROUGH it

Prayer. It's been my focus as of late. I think I may have had a mini-breakthrough. I've already lamented about how prayer has always been a struggle for me and that I've been fighting to make it a more vibrant part of my life. I recently finished up A Praying Life by Paul Miller and found it to be a fresh perspective that left me feeling hopeful that perhaps progress can be made in this area of my life. In his chapter on listening to God, Miller uses a word picture that really struck me. He was actually using it in reference to elevating an experience with God over God himself but he said, "Without realizing it, we can look at the windshield instead of through it." All at once it hit me that that's what I've been doing with prayer. I want to pray "right," so I study the topic of prayer. I read books on Scripture. I read Scripture itself. I have books that give amazing testimony to the power of prayer. I get all "motivated up" and then give it a shot. I think, "Okay, now I know what the Bible says about it and the effects it can have, so let's do this!" And I fizzle out again and come out on the other side discouraged. Okay, so then Miller talks about how a "praying life" can look and gives some practical advice to get there. He focuses on Scripture and how it is such an important part of praying. He talks about finding passages of Scripture to help you "pray biblically" about specific circumstances. Not an idea that's completely foreign to me. Then it all came together in my mind: I left Scripture alone once I learned what the Bible said about the topic. I used my intellect and my emotions, but rarely the Word of God. Sure, I occasionally prayed through a Psalm as a praise offering or lament or let a passage (such as the Lord's Prayer) guide my praying, but for the most part, Scripture was not a part of the praying process. Enter confusion. I second guess myself as I pray because I don't know whether to pray "in faith" or pray "your will be done" or give it up all together because deep down I don't believe it does anything. Doest that make sense? I'm looking AT the windshield (theology of prayer) instead of THROUGH it? I then become paralyzed by the idea of praying correctly. Aiyayay! I've seriously been doing this for years!!!! He suggests something that I've embarrassingly never even thought of. Make my "prayer list" using Scripture. Novel idea. Here's how it looks: He has an index card for specific members of his family and areas of his life (people who are suffering, friends, non-Christians, church leadership, missionaries and ministries, cultural issues, work, co-workers, repentance, hopes/dream, etc.). He considers the things they need prayer for and then finds a verse or passage in Scripture to guide his prayer for that person. Brilliant! No more second guessing! (Or at least less of it, anyway!) I think it will make more sense if you read the book or look at my cards, so I'll give some examples. Isaac, as most two year old are, is struggling with obedience and whining right now. So here's what his card says: ISAAC Obedience- "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." (Eph. 6:1) Whining- "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation..." (Phi. 2:14-15) Salvation- "For 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Rom. 10:13) These are things I am praying for Isaac right now. Instead of just praying that Isaac won't whine (which in reality would really be a prayer for me because I can't stand listening to it!!!), I can pray that he would not whine for his character's sake and for God's glory; that he would grow up to be a blameless and pure child of God even in the midst of the evil going on in the world around him. Here's a personal card with areas that I struggle with and am continually coming back to the Lord for forgiveness and help. REPENTANCE Selfishness with others (especially Matt)- "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil. 2:3-4) Laziness in household responsibilities- "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (Col. 3:23) Pride-When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Prov. 11:2) That's about all the dirty laundry that I'm willing to share, but you get the idea. I have a lot of friends from Moody who are either on the mission field or are getting ready to go and this is my prayer card for them (some names are X'ed out because they're in sensitive areas and I'm not sure that it's good to have "missionary" next to their name on a public site). MISSIONARIES XXXXXX and XXXXXX Matt and Pam XXXXXX and XXXXXX Kevin and Alyssa Nate and Kelley "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Gal. 6:9) I LOVE it. My "prayer list" items don't change much, but the WAY I pray for those things do! Such a breath of fresh air! Miller doesn't pray through every prayer card everyday and he suggests using your designated prayer time to make these cards if you don't feel you have a lot of extra time (which is what I'm trying to do). He also gives a sneak peek into his prayer life and gives a real life representation of the 20-25 min. he spent in his "set aside prayer time" and what it looked like with interruptions and all. It was encouraging to me to see a guy who takes prayer so seriously yet doesn't spend hours in a prayer closet uninterrupted before God (not that that isn't AMAZING if you do it, but not extremely practical for me right now unless I were to get up in the middle of the night.) I'll once again recommend this book. It's not perfect, but it sure is a fresh perspective and unlike any other book I've read on the subject. That's all for now. I am still very open to suggestions and would love to hear how your prayer life works. For now, I'm grateful for the mini-breakthrough and pray that the Lord continues to work on me in this area of weakness.


  1. Great reminder on prayer not being an end in and of itself. Prayer is not the focus, God is. Great illustration from Miller on the windshield! Thanks for the posts and thoughts on prayer as well as a practical method for implementing them.

  2. I'm so glad the book has been helpful. I'm actually going through the workbook in a ladies' study and it's been great. So good to be reminded that it's all about the relationship rather than the "job" of praying. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Amanda, Thanks again for the recommendation. I may have to look into the workbook and see if I can get some girls who are interested together to go through it. It's definitely a book I'd like to read again to help me internalize it a little more!

    K & A, Prayer is NOT the focus... God is! I wish I'd used that line in my blog. I guess I kind of did in a round about way. :)