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A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

4.7 29
by Paul Miller, David Powlison (Foreword by)
Author Paul Miller shares his insights and conclusions about how to connect the broken pieces of your life and allow prayer—even poorly delivered—to fill the gaps with meaning and substance. Miller’s down-to-earth approach and practical nature will help you see that your relationship with God can grow and your communication with Him can get better.


Author Paul Miller shares his insights and conclusions about how to connect the broken pieces of your life and allow prayer—even poorly delivered—to fill the gaps with meaning and substance. Miller’s down-to-earth approach and practical nature will help you see that your relationship with God can grow and your communication with Him can get better. Parents will find Miller’s family-life experiences especially helpful.

Product Details

Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Hollywood Nobody Series
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Praying Life

Connecting With God in a Distracting World

By Paul E. Miller

Tyndale House Publishers

Copyright © 2017 Paul Miller
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63146-683-0



I was camping for the weekend in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania with five of our six kids. My wife, Jill, was home with our eight-year-old daughter, Kim. After a disastrous camping experience the summer before, Jill was happy to stay home. She said she was giving up camping for Lent.

I was walking down from our campsite to our Dodge Caravan when I noticed our fourteen-year-old daughter, Ashley, standing in front of the van, tense and upset. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "I lost my contact lens. It's gone." I looked down with her at the forest floor, covered with leaves and twigs. There were a million little crevices for the lens to fall into and disappear.

I said, "Ashley, don't move. Let's pray." But before I could pray, she burst into tears. "What good does it do? I've prayed for Kim to speak, and she isn't speaking."

Kim struggles with autism and developmental delay. Because of her weak fine motor skills and problems with motor planning, she is also mute. One day after five years of speech therapy, Kim crawled out of the speech therapist's office, crying from frustration. Jill said, "No more," and we stopped speech therapy.

Prayer was no mere formality for Ashley. She had taken God at his word and asked that he would let Kim speak. But nothing happened. Kim's muteness was testimony to a silent God. Prayer, it seemed, doesn't work.

Few of us have Ashley's courage to articulate the quiet cynicism or spiritual weariness that develops in us when heartfelt prayer goes unanswered. We keep our doubts hidden even from ourselves because we don't want to sound like bad Christians. No reason to add shame to our cynicism. So our hearts shut down.

The glib way people talk about prayer often reinforces our cynicism. We end our conversations with "I'll keep you in my prayers." We have a vocabulary of "prayer speak," including "I'll lift you up in prayer" and "I'll remember you in prayer." Many who use these phrases, including us, never get around to praying. Why? Because we don't think prayer makes much difference.

Cynicism and glibness are just part of the problem. The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself. We last for about fifteen seconds, and then out of nowhere the day's to-do list pops up and our minds are off on a tangent. We catch ourselves and, by sheer force of the will, go back to praying. Before we know it, it has happened again. Instead of praying, we are doing a confused mix of wandering and worrying. Then the guilt sets in. Something must be wrong with me. Other Christians don't seem to have this trouble praying. After five minutes we give up, saying, "I am no good at this. I might as well get some work done."

Something is wrong with us. Our natural desire to pray comes from Creation. We are made in the image of God. Our inability to pray comes from the Fall. Evil has marred the image. We want to talk to God but can't. The friction of our desire to pray, combined with our badly damaged prayer antennae, leads to constant frustration. It's as if we've had a stroke.

Complicating this is the enormous confusion about what makes for good prayer. We vaguely sense that we should begin by focusing on God, not on ourselves. So when we start to pray, we try to worship. That works for a minute, but it feels contrived; then guilt sets in again. We wonder, Did I worship enough? Did I really mean it?

In a burst of spiritual enthusiasm we put together a prayer list, but praying through the list gets dull, and nothing seems to happen. The list gets long and cumbersome; we lose touch with many of the needs. Praying feels like whistling in the wind. When someone is healed or helped, we wonder if it would have happened anyway. Then we misplace the list.

Praying exposes how self-preoccupied we are and uncovers our doubts. It was easier on our faith not to pray. After only a few minutes, our prayer is in shambles. Barely out of the starting gate, we collapse on the sidelines — cynical, guilty, and hopeless.

The Hardest Place in the World to Pray

American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, "Get to work."

When we aren't working, we are used to being entertained. Television, the Internet, video games, and cell phones make free time as busy as work. When we do slow down, we slip into a stupor. Exhausted by the pace of life, we veg out in front of a screen or with earplugs.

If we try to be quiet, we are assaulted by what C. S. Lewis called "the Kingdom of Noise." Everywhere we go we hear background noise. If the noise isn't provided for us, we can bring our own via iPod.

Even our church services can have that same restless energy. There is little space to be still before God. We want our money's worth, so something should always be happening. We are uncomfortable with silence.

One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does, and it is quicker and less time-consuming. Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us structurally independent of God. As a result, exhortations to pray don't stick.

The Oddness of Praying

It's worse if we stop and think about how odd prayer is. When we have a phone conversation, we hear a voice and can respond. When we pray, we are talking to air. Only crazy people talk to themselves. How do we talk with a Spirit, with someone who doesn't speak with an audible voice?

And if we believe that God can talk to us in prayer, how do we distinguish our thoughts from his thoughts? Prayer is confusing. We vaguely know that the Holy Spirit is somehow involved, but we are never sure how or when a spirit will show up or what that even means. Some people seem to have a lot of the Spirit. We don't.

Forget about God for a minute. Where do you fit in? Can you pray for what you want? And what's the point of praying if God already knows what you need? Why bore God? It sounds like nagging. Just thinking about prayer ties us all up in knots.

Has this been your experience? If so, know that you have lots of company. Most Christians feel frustrated when it comes to prayer!

A Visit to a Prayer Therapist

Let's imagine that you see a prayer therapist to get your prayer life straightened out. The therapist says, "Let's begin by looking at your relationship with your heavenly Father. God said, 'I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me' (2 Corinthians 6:18). What does it mean that you are a son or daughter of God?"

You reply that it means you have complete access to your heavenly Father through Jesus. You have true intimacy, based not on how good you are but on the goodness of Jesus. Not only that, Jesus is your brother. You are a fellow heir with him.

The therapist smiles and says, "That is right. You've done a wonderful job of describing the doctrine of Sonship. Now tell me what it is like for you to be with your Father? What is it like to talk with him?"

You cautiously tell the therapist how difficult it is to be in your Father's presence, even for a couple of minutes. Your mind wanders. You aren't sure what to say. You wonder, Does prayer make any difference? Is God even there? Then you feel guilty for your doubts and just give up.

Your therapist tells you what you already suspect. "Your relationship with your heavenly Father is dysfunctional. You talk as if you have an intimate relationship, but you don't. Theoretically, it is close. Practically, it is distant. You need help."

Ashley's Contact

I needed help when Ashley burst into tears in front of our minivan. I was frozen, caught between her doubts and my own. I had no idea that she'd been praying for Kim to speak. What made Ashley's tears so disturbing was that she was right. God had not answered her prayers. Kim was still mute. I was fearful for my daughter's faith and for my own. I did not know what to do.

Would I make the problem worse by praying? If we prayed and couldn't find the contact, it would just confirm Ashley's growing unbelief. Already, Jill and I were beginning to lose her heart. Her childhood faith in God was being replaced by faith in boys. Ashley was cute, warm, and outgoing. Jill was having trouble keeping track of Ashley's boyfriends, so she started naming them like ancient kings. Ashley's first boyfriend was Frank, so his successors became Frank the Second, Frank the Third, and so on. Jill and I needed help.

I had little confidence God would do anything, but I prayed silently, Father, this would be a really good time to come through. You've got to hear this prayer for the sake of Ashley. Then I prayed aloud with Ashley, "Father, help us to find this contact."

When I finished, we bent down to look through the dirt and twigs. There, sitting on a leaf, was the missing lens.

Prayer made a difference after all.


Excerpted from A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. Copyright © 2017 Paul Miller. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Scotty Smith
In my library, I have perhaps twenty different volumes on prayer, but none captured my heart or propelled me into fresh communion with our Father as much as A Praying Life. Finally, a book that applies the radical implications of the gospel of God’s grace to prayer! With childlike wonder, sage-like wisdom, and heartfelt candor, Paul shows us that to pray is to see Jesus more clearly and meet him more regularly in every single aspect and moment of the day. Thanks, my friend, for calling me back to what really matters.
Philip Ryken
Paul Miller refuses to separate the spiritual life from the rest of our daily living. In A Praying Life, he shows the difference that constant communication with Christ makes in the everyday experiences of life, especially the life of the family. Reading this book will help you make prayer a more important part of your own life story by integrating prayer into the daily routines of life.
Dan B. Allender
Prayer, the concept and the practice, exposes our core doubts and desperation for God. Paul Miller captures the promise of prayer as a gift that connects us to the heart of the Father and as a path for transforming the world. Paul’s honest struggle with living a life full of prayer and his childlike delight in hearing the heart of God invite us to gratitude and call us to speak boldly to our God. This book will be like having the breath of God at your back. Let it lift you to new hope.
J. I. Packer
Honest, realistic, mature, wise, deep. Warmly recommended.
Tim Keller
If Jesus or Jesus’ saving grace is just an abstraction to you, Paul Miller will be a great help in making his love a living reality to your heart.
Tremper Longman III
A Praying Life is a deeply moving testimony to God’s power in prayer. Paul Miller shares his life and biblical wisdom to instill in us, his readers, a “heart that becomes a factory of prayer”—that is, a passion to speak to God honestly and in a way that will change our life and the lives of others for whom we pray.
Ken Sande
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” Paul Miller’s superb book calls us back to this “greater work,” reminding us of the joy we find in our Lord’s presence and equipping us with practical insight on how to recapture the intimacy and power of a praying life.
Paul David Tripp
A book on prayer that actually makes you want to pray!

Meet the Author

Paul Miller is director of seeJesus.net, an organization that develops interactive Bible studies for small groups. He is the author of Love Walked Among Us (NavPress), The PrayerLife Study, The Person of Jesus, an interactive study of the wonder of Jesus and his love. He also travels widely and teaches Jesus Weekends, Person of Jesus seminars, and PrayerLife seminars. Paul and his wife, Jill, have six children and live near Philadelphia.

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A Praying Life 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best Book On Prayer .....Ever This book made me want to pray instead of making me feel guilty for not praying or incapable of measuring up to E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (which is an awesome classic and an excellent read). Miller inspires prayer perhaps Bounds leaves me admiring prayer. Thank you Paul Miller for flaming a greater passion for prayer!
LauraN More than 1 year ago
I will be recommending this book to a lot of friends. I love his tone and his approach. I have changed my approach to prayer and improved my prayers and increased my desire to pray with this book. This book will help you get rid of the guilt and learn to talk to God from your heart, the way it's meant to be.
jquilter More than 1 year ago
This book and the study guide were used by our study group. It was one of our best, but not easiest, studies. We all felt we learned and grew from the study.
onedesertrose More than 1 year ago
A Praying Life by Paul E Miller has got to be the most practical, all-inclusive, intimate, deep, personal, and relational book on prayer I have ever read! His personal life examples illuminate his prayer perspectives, goals, and illustrations. Helplessness equals power when God is in charge of your prayer life. Parts 1-5 include some of the following: 1. Learning to Pray Like a Child: talking to your Father, spending time with your Father, and learning to be helpless. 2. Learning to Trust Again: coming out of the world of cynicism and following Jesus. 3. Learning to Ask Your Father: why is it to hard for us to ask, just how personal is God, and surrendering our own will completely. 4. Living in Your Father's Story: how your life is the Father's love story, dealing with unanswered prayer, and living in hope. 5. Praying in Real Life: practical tools to help you keep on track with your prayer life, learning to really listen to God's voice,and using a prayer journal and/or cards. Of the above parts, number five is my favorite, as it teaches me how to practically apply what I learned in the first four chapters. Now, don't get me wrong, the first four parts are full of dynamite pieces of wisdom as well! Such titles include: What good does it do to pray? Ask like a child. Pray like Jesus prayed. Prayer equals helplessness. The secular world's removal of the Shepherd from Psalm 23! Spotting Jesus! Good asking. Character change-too scary! Our prayers shape us. Life in the desert. And much, much more. I would highly recommend Paul's book for Sunday School, Bible study, personal growth, and personal devotions, i.e., everyone. This book is a 'keeper' for my shelf for future use and referral! A definite 5.0 rating! This book was provided free by NavPress in exchange for my honest review.
bookreviewer1977 More than 1 year ago
I really, really enjoyed this book and thought it was one of the best prayer books I've read in years. This isn't a book that just lays out a procedure for how to pray and a formula of what to do and tells the reader how to follow it. Instead, it gets into the heart of a Christian and into the importance of prayer with topics such as praying like a child, learning to trust again, learning to ask your Father, and living in the Father's story. The book discusses some of the barriers to a good prayer life, like cynicism, trust, the influence of Western culture on our mindsets, and naive optimism (to name a few) and also talks about the role of prayer in developing a deep relationship with God. I found these chapters to be really thought-provoking and saw myself and my way of thinking in many of the discussions. Throughout all these chapters, the author continually shares stories from his own life- many about his adult daughter who suffers from autism, and shows how God has worked in his family over the years. Only after the issues and challenges that face a believer in his or her prayer life have been thoroughly discussed does he get into the final section, praying in real life. In this section, the author makes some great suggestions about prayer tools. I'm especially intrigued by the idea of prayer cards, rather than a traditional prayer journal, and plan to implement that method immediately! When I'm reading a book for review, I usually mark sections that I especially liked and want to talk about in the review. I got to the end of this book and looked down to realize that I'd flagged about one in ten pages. A bit much to share in this review! I think it really spoke to me because the author is so open and honest about his own struggles-in life and in his prayer, and was also honest about the work that God did in his life while he waited for his prayers to be answered. I'll close with one of my favorite paragraphs, which I think sums up the general idea of this book so well. "We don't need a praying life because that is our duty. That would wear thin quickly. We need time to be with our Father every day because every day our hearts and the hearts of those around us are overgrown with weeds. We need to reflect on our lives and engage God with the condition of our souls and the souls he has entrusted to our care or put in our paths. In a fallen world, these things do not come automatically." If you're a Christian and would like a deeper, more intimate prayer life (and I think that category includes most of us), take a look at this wonderful book. Disclosure: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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I'd also like to recommend "When God Stopped Keeping Score" by R.A. Clark. It's revealing look at the power of forgiveness. If you ever felt trapped by anger, guilt, resentment and/or pain, then this book is for you.
PJtheEMT4 More than 1 year ago
As a blogger for Navpress publishers I had the recent opportunity to review Paul E. Miller's book, A Praying Life. The best way to desribe this book would be to say it is a cross between a prayer intruction manual/ textbook, psychology book, inspirational guide and self help book rolled into one volume. For anyone who wants a jump start to get motivated to pray and to learn about the power of prayer, this is the perfect book. This book will succeed in getting even the most skeptic of readers, thinking more about the importance of prayer in his/ her own life. One shortcoming of this book, is that the author makes use of personal anecdotes based on his own life and experiences as a father and spiritual leader/ pastor. Many readers may find it difficult to relate to the intense spiritual life of the author, Paul E. Miller, and one may argue that this author is predisposed to having an intense prayer life. How many readers can relate to teenagers who genuinely pray and are honest enough to voice their concerns about prayers that go unanswered? How many of us are pastors, or come from a pastor's family or are married to a pasto? While Miller's personal stories are an attempt at making a personal connection with the reader, I believe they will serve to alienate many reader. For most of us, we do not have the spiritual backing or support from our families or church that the author enjoys inorder to pursue spiritual endeavors. Nevertheless, the use of personal anecdotes, does not detract from the overall purpose of the book. I believe this is a valuable resource as an inspriational book to motivate the reader to prayer as well as an instructional guide to ease the transition into a deeper relationship with God through prayer. The idea of prayer cards, introduced in the book, is a pretty unique concept, and is a concrete and real way by which anyone can get started into prayer. As a blogger for Navpress publishers, I recieved a copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review. The opinions expressed are my own.
CJC67 More than 1 year ago
This book has changed my life! It has shown me I'm not the only one who's mind wonders while praying. How to come to God as a child and so what is truly in my heart! We ALL need to have a Praying Life you just need this book to get you started!
bp0602 More than 1 year ago
I am happy to share with you a book I listened to and finished last week called A Praying Life by Paul Miller. The title is so fitting for what this book is about....learning to have a life filled with prayer. I felt the author did a wonderful job keeping things real for the reader. He shared stories from his personal life when God answered particular prayers, things he's learned about prayer, and how he has prayed for his children. One of his daughters has autism and he used many stories about struggles they have faced in helping her through the years. Listening to this audio book has been a wonderful reminder to me of the power of prayer and the importance of covering our lives in prayer. God hears our prayers and desires for us to pray to Him. The narrator was also easy to listen to on this book. This audio book was provided through christianaudio Reviewers Program.