A Life Filled With Prayer
My friend and college Resident Assistant tragically passed away in a hiking accident in the Swiss Alps nearly a year-and-a-half ago. In remembrance and respect, our school held a memorial service for him. Of course his parents were there, and during the service his mother read a few notes from a journal he kept. One of the notes read, in effect, that there are two books he thought everybody should read: Timothy Keller's The Reason for God, and Paul Miller's A Praying Life.
I read The Reason for God shortly after that service, and it's easily one of the best books I've ever opened. If you haven't read it, and despite what you believe or are unsure about, I strongly recommend you find a copy. A year after finishing that, I've finally begun reading A Praying life. It's not necessarily the greatest book ever written, and I'm only halfway through it at the time of this writing. But it's exactly what I needed. Its message is exactly what each of us need - a life filled with prayer.
The concept is not simple. It's not easy. But how many good things are easy to grasp? Miller makes the assumption that the reader is already a member of the Christian community, but thankfully he does not get bogged down in using religious mumbo jumbo or "Christianese." He doesn't explicitly say this, but what Miller is really advocating is a combination of faith and dependence, which manifests through prayer.
We need dependence on God, to realize we're better off not doing things on our own, and instead should rely on the One in whose image we are created. And we need faith, to believe that our requests, our sufferings, our burdens, our desires, however seemingly trivial, actually do matter to God. When these two aspects come together, what we inevitably get is prayer in some form or another. The stronger the combination, the more prayerful life we live. The more prayerful life we live, the more fulfilled we are able to be.
Sometimes God allows people to suffer to make us realize we need Him. Lately I've been suffering with some prolonged issues (nothing life-threatening, but miserable nonetheless). I also hadn't been praying at all. The last two weeks I've spent thirty minutes to an hour throughout each day talking with God - sharing my thoughts and feelings and desires, and asking for strength and for His guidance to be apparent to me. What'd'ya know, those issues I've been suffering from for months are almost entirely cleared up now.
And the thing is, this happens every time.
I find that my life is better when I'm dependent on God. Then, for some reason, I think that, because life is swell, I don't need Him. How's that for logical? I become prideful and arrogant, and think it's all my doing. And then life becomes rough once again, causing me to recognize my need for God, again, only for the same cycle to continue.
I get caught up in making money, in being wise, in spoiling my wife, in being the guy everybody likes. I lose sight of what actually matters. I neglect what keeps life going well. I neglect who keeps life going.
What Miller brings to light is what many of us already know - that life dependent on God is better than life independent of God. He creates this picture with accounts of his own life. He lives what he writes. I'm sure he's not perfect, and he makes that clear, but why would someone have to be perfect for God to take care of them?
Dependence on God and faith that He'll come through, even in the small things, is what prayer is all about. I pray because I recognize a need, whether it be for safe traffic on the way to work, or for a dying relative. Similar to the way someone might seek out an advisor to help with their finances, I should seek God to help me through life.