My Family

My Family
Summer 2015

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Praying Life- Paul E Miller

Since I kind of stink at starting a book and finishing it.  I typically start well read and then put it down part way through.  Then I forget what I read, so I pick it back up again and then begin to get new insights into what I previously read.  It's entertaining really.

This time the book?

A Praying Life  by Paul E Miller

It really is a good book.  Recommended by a good friend.
In fact Peter and I started it several months ago also and then set it down.  Now we are picking it back up again and reareading it for further insight.  This is not because of the book, but because we stink at "finishing".

So, I've read this part of the book now 3 times.
Maybe God is trying to teach me something about prayer.

p. 20
"Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God.  Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime.  In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it....Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another.  Consequently...getting to know a person, God, is the center (of prayer)."

Peter and I have sat with this concept and it has been a big one for us.
Other things in the book also contributed to a conversation we had at length the other day.

Take a step back in our journey.
Loss of 2 babies in 1990 and 1991 tossed us into a world of chaos we never would have expected.  Suddenly we were part of a family of people that have "lost children".  Not a club you want to join.  Then in 2002 we entered at another level with a child diagnosed with cancer at the age of 4.  He also died which puts us in yet another "club".  We never would have been able to walk those journeys if it hadn't been for our relationship with God.  Yet, in hindsight--and without being too hard on our "former selves", we see things that we've often wondered about and questioned along the way.

One biggie...
During the journey with Jacob and childhood cancer for 16 months, we can look back and see the spiritual intensity.  We felt so in tune with God and like everyday we were desperately seeking Him.  We prayed like we've never prayed before.  We had prayer "warriors" around the world praying like never before (this was pre "blog" era so we sent mass emails).  Spritually, I think we were on edge often.  Our faith grew.  Our understanding of things like God's Sovereignty grew.  Our understanding of The Church Body grew as we were overwhelmed by the generosity of so many.  I wrote more journals in that period of time than ever.  Everyday an entry I think.  Prayers, Psalms, Worship songs, sermons, notes from friends, the cry of my heart, my desires and the conflict I often felt with where God was taking this whole thing.

Then he died.  April 29, 2004.  Age 6.

And our whole house literally went silent.

He had been on oxygen and the hum of the machine was gone.
His rambunctious personality was gone.
Isaac was an only child.  No sibling rivalry.

Both Peter and I felt a lull in our spiritual life for several months after that.  We still had support, don't get me wrong.  Our family and friends were great.  The Body still surrounded us.  But, something was "missing".  It was as if our desire to pray, or our purpose in prayer was gone.

We found ourselves in a desert.

We had focused so long and so hard on prayers of healing, of God's Will, of making it through the next procedure, etc.  that now it seemed as if there wasn't anything to really pray about other than our own feelings of loss (which by the way is ok to pray about--but it's a different kind of prayer that doesn't require immediate repeated intensity)

Since that time almost 10 years ago now, both of us have learned a lot about who God is and walked through various transitions and studies and learned so much from our Pastor as well.  Our faith has continued to mature and grow.

But, this concept popped out at me so strongly the other night.

Perhaps when we walk through a super intense season in our lives, our prayers become so focused on the outcome and circumstance that it's like "trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it"  
Perhaps the reason we felt such a lull in our spiritual lives after Jacob died, was due to our focus.
If our focus was simply on the circumstances, and the circumstance was then "over"... we had nothing left to pray about.  And let's be honest many of our prayers were self/family focused.  Just being real and honest.

Instead of letting our circumstance be the focus...
Perhaps, we are learning, our focus instead should be on creating a more intimate relationship with God.  On being in tune with His character and being.  I'm not saying we ignored God or His will in our journey.  I think we attempted to do that.  But, I think this has brought an awareness about prayer to both of us.  And in doing so has taken our breath away.

The God of the Universe
invites us in
to a relationship so deep and personal and intimate
that it can take our breath away
if we just allow it to.

Our circumstances can surely cause a hyper intense focus for a season.  There is no doubt about that.  And God will certainly use it for His Glory when we welcome Him into it.  But, when it's over, if our focus has simply been on the "right" prayer and the "right" answer, we will be left with the feeling of walking through a desert.  Parched and thirsty and a bit lost. Looking for direction.

Prayer is not dull
Prayer is not a chore
Prayer is not simply a "list" (although he welcomes us to bring "everything" to Him in prayer so it may look that way sometimes)
Prayer is not something to check off on a list
Prayer is not simply a duty

Prayer is our honor and joy.

We fall down in worship as we are able to enter into His presence:
"'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying" 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever...Amen'"  Rev. 5:12-13

I think the reason we don't pray sometimes is because we don't want to take the time or spiritual energy to "go there" with God.  What if we just walked with an awareness of who He is and His presence all the time?  How would our demeanor change?  How would our decision making change?  How would the words we use change?  How would our view of that guy behind the counter change? It does take some time and some energy to change our focus.  And perhaps some "quiet" time as well--which can be hard to find.

Join me in this journey.
Intimacy with God.
Just simply intimacy with Him.
What a privilege.

p. 23
"Learning to pray doesn't offer us a less busy life; {God has things for us to do} it offers us a less busy heart.  In the midst of outer busyness we can develop inner quiet"

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