A Praying Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009)

Judging by the number of books on Christian prayer, we’re pretty bad at it.

This is not surprising, since even the disciples had to ask Jesus for help (Luke 11:1).

Paul Miller attempts to help believers pray by reminding us that prayer is difficult when we focus on the process, rather than on the result. He likens this to gathering with friends and family after a meal to talk, and being more concerned with the mechanics of conversational protocol than with enjoying the people we’re with.

He approaches the subject in a conversational and personal style, employing many examples from his own life and family.

Cautions are in order for those choosing to consult Miller’s book for help with prayer.

First, though Miller gets endorsements from several evangelical and orthodox authors and preachers, but most, if not all of his quotations and references relate to those from a mystical or near-mystical tradition. Hints of that appear occasionally in his own writing. If you are a “reference chaser” like I am, be very cautious about chasing Miller’s references.

Second, Miller wants believers to focus on the familial aspect of prayer, and for us to come to the Father like a child, without pretense. This gives the impression early in the book that we need not filter our requests, at all. This is clarified only late in the book when Miller acknowledge James’ instruction that we sometimes ask with wrong motives, and even then he does not relate the need to pray with godly motives with his desire for us to pray without pretense. This could use further explanation.

Third, Miller suggests that we don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously, only to be poor in spirit (66). This is catchy, but seems to be directly at odds with 1 Peter 4:7, which directs us to be diligent and self-controlled in prayer.

Fourth, Miller seems too willing to accept any request as suitable for prayer, ranging from finding lost pajamas to purchasing a vacation home. However, he does a good job relating the request for wisdom to life decisions (such as whether to buy a lake house), and suggests questions for the believer to ask to assess his motives (143). He could have gone into a bit more explanation of the sorts of questions to ask God.

Miller does a good job of emphasizing that because we are broken and needy, we should pray all the time about every thing. He directs us to include “kingdom” requests in prayer, such as for character change in people, so that they progress in holiness (149). He wisely cautions against formalism in prayer, such as might happen when we use an acrostic such as A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). He also suggests a method of prayer using 3×5 cards, which might be helpful.

On the whole, I recommend A Praying Life, but with cautions. If you had to choose between this and one of the other, more established books on prayer, you might do better with one of them.

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