I am continuing to benefit from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life. One of the ways seems really obvious, given the title of the book.
Think of that for a moment, do you think of your life as a “praying life”? Or, do you think of prayer as a part of your life. Those two things are different. I think what Miller is trying to convey is a biblically informed view that prayer – talking with God – and our lives are to be intertwined. One way he does this is by talking about prayer in the midst of the stories that are our lives.
Mr. Miller shares the story of the Canaanite woman who goes to Jesus looking for him to heal her daughter (Matthew 15:21ff). He points out that Jesus does not at first respond to the disciples or the woman – not a word (15:23). When he finally responds to her, it is not the answer she is looking for. But she persists. She keeps going after Jesus. And he eventually responds – with encouragement and power. Miller writes:
If Jesus were a magic prayer machine, he’d have healed this woman’s daughter instantly, and we would not have discovered her feisty, creative spirit. Likewise, Jesus’ ambiguity with us creates the space not only for him to emerge but us as well. If the miracle comes too quickly, there is no room for discovery, for relationship…The waiting that is the essence of faith provides the context for relationship…Everyone talks about how prayer is relationship, but often what people mean is having warm fuzzies for God. Nothing wrong with warm fuzzies, but relationships are far richer and more complex.
I think Miller is on to something here. He wants us to see our lives as a story, and like any good story, they are filled with different chapters. One chapter may be centered on joy, delight, and the wind at our backs. Another may be centered on difficulty, sorrow, and the wind at our faces. God is present in both. He places himself in the story at all points, in every chapter. The relationship with him becomes richer, deeper, and more complex as we continue to interact with him (praying) in and through the story.
The temptation is to look at prayer as a way to get out of a particular part of the story that we don’t currently like. But maybe prayer is the vehicle that lets us interact with a loving Father as we walk the path, feeling his presence, and learning priceless lessons as we go. Lessons we would not, could not, learn any other way. You could call that a “praying life.” Hmmm….
More thoughts on this from Miller and I tomorrow.