Undistracted Prayer: Review of A Praying Life

A Praying Life coverA review of A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a distracting world by Paul E. Miller. (NavPress, 2009)

Australia is not short of deserts. But most of us don’t have the time or luxury to trek into them for prayer retreats or times of personal reflection.

When you read about the monks of early Christianity, and much Christian material on prayer today, the solution to prayerlessness seems to be having more time in the desert. Or, insert quiet-place-of-choice-here. And there’s nothing wrong with that if you can find the space.

But Paul Miller’s book about ‘connecting with God in a distracting world’ is worth reading because it will not make that suggestion. It is about praying in non-ideal settings, in other words, in every day life.

Miller puts himself and his family into his teaching. He tells stories of looking for his daughter’s lost contact lens, of another child who loved the world too much—as evidenced by her wistful love for the old family car— and of his daughter Kim who has lived with lifelong disabilities.

And stories of his own anger and cynicism.

Miller talks about praying in all these kinds of situations, but not just praying any old thing. Instead he aims at discovering where God is involved in the lives of others and beginning to line up prayers for them using parts of the Bible and an awareness of how God seems to be uniquely working on their character and life direction.

The book is based on content that Miller used to run prayer seminars in the US, where many were learning to pray for the first time.

I liked most his chapter on relying on God as a dependable Father. This sort of focus gives a significance to even insignificant one line prayers, such as: “God have mercy on us.”

An analysis of cynicism and how it stops us praying and makes us critical and disinterested in God’s work in peoples’ lives, was very, very illuminating.

Finally his prayer card system which admittedly is a “prayer technique”, is logical and really pretty easy to apply.

When it comes to prayer, books are not sufficient because they cannot pray for us. Yet Paul Miller manages to speak to every Christian’s intention of leading a prayerful life without triteness or condemnation, but with Christ-centred hope.

Joshua Maule is a former writer with Eternity and is currently studying full time at Moore Theological College in Sydney.