A Praying Life: A New Community Group Study Coming this Fall
Based on the book, A Praying Life, by Paul Miller, this fall many of our community groups will be doing a 12 week study.
Prayer can be challenging in our hurried and distracted world. We ask questions like, “does prayer even work?” and “how can God tell me to ask for whatever I wish, but Im also supposed to pray His will be done?” Paul Miller gives us an honest look at the difficulties of prayer, the blessing of how God works in prayer, as well as practical steps we can take to grow into what he calls “a Praying Life”.
I've been going through this book with a group of guys since the spring and as we're wrapping up our time in it I have been thinking about what I've been learning through it. First, I have not met anyone who is really satisfied in their prayer life. I believe it is one of those areas where we all carry a little bit of guilt because we know it is difficult and the culture we are in teaches us subconsciously focus more on what can be seen, measured and evaluated. Prayer in and of itself is a relationship with our heavenly father, it cannot be measured or quantified and when we focus too much on prayer techniques or how long we're praying we end up missing God and missing the point. Prayer should be natural because we are designed to be in fellowship with God, but because of sin's presence in this world it no longer is easy... even the disciples had to ask Jesus "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).
A second thing I've really appreciated about the book is that it is not only a book on prayer but also a book on the fatherhood of God and on facing suffering.
Miller addressed things like how we come to God in our helplessness like little children to their loving parents:
Little children are good at helplessness. It's what they do best. But as adults, we soon forget how important helplessness is. I, for one, am allergic to helplessness. I don't like it. I want a plan, an idea, or maybe a friend to listen to my problem. This is how I instinctively approach everything because I am confident in my own abilities. This is even true in my work of teaching people about prayer... God wants us to come to him empty-handed, weary, and heavy-laden. Instinctively we want to get ride of our helplessness before we come to God. (A Praying Life, p54).
In reference to suffering and how God teaches us to love others through suffering and prayer, Miller writes:
Whenever you love you reenact Jesus' death. Consequently, gospel stories always have suffering in them. American Christianity has an allergic reaction to this part of the gospel. We'd love to hear about God's love for us, but suffering doesn't mesh with our right to "the pursuit of happiness." So we pray to escape the gospel story, when that is the best gift the Father can give us. (A Praying Life, p214).
Many of us try to use prayer to escape suffering, instead of seeing prayer as our tether or anchor to God himself in the midst of our suffering. Paul Miller will talk throughout his book about this as God weaving our story into his own story. I know that can sound "fluffy" and "nice", but in practice Miller shows us this in his own story of having a severely disabled daughter and how God answered prayers over the long haul of his life and how that experience, even though it was incredibly challenging, was what God used to shape his heart towards humility, grace and greater love.
I believe that you should join one of our community groups and be part of this study this fall because I believe that God will use this book to give you a window into his heart, a greater understanding of the word and people you can learn from and pray with through your group. You will find that Paul Miller is asking many of the questions you have and he will point you back to Jesus through the scripture and insights from his life experience.
*Community group participants and leaders can find the complete study guide as well as individual sessions through the links below.