Prayer is about relationship with God. A Praying Life by Paul Miller

A Praying Life

I shut off the mower’s whirring blades, removed my hearing protection, and there it was:  the splash and whoosh of the Atlantic Ocean, always restless, continually wearing away the granite at the bottom of the embankment in the back yard where I had been mowing.  Clouds above were heavy with rain; therefore, sunset would come early. Even so, I paused for just a minute to absorb the sound of waves, to note the gray, glassy swells, and to soak in the truth that the sound had been there before I could hear it. My listening did not bring it into being, but stopping to hear and to appreciate it had changed my view of the world.

Prayer has the same effect, it seems. God is always present, always moving, continually at work. It takes just a minute to remove my ear plugs (and my blinders) of busy-ness, anxiety, entertainment, and the endless drivel that occupies my gray matter during waking moments. Prayer is the conversation that welcomes God into my life, and lately, I’ve been absorbing the idea that it’s not self-talk that’s going to change me or my way of thinking. It’s more productive for me to turn that stream of words toward the God who is always there listening anyway.

Prayer is a Conversation with God

I am committed to the responsibility of praying for my family, and have embraced the privilege of praying by name each day for those closest to my heart, but there’s an emptiness in a prayer life that ends up as a shopping list. There’s a touch of the audacious in showing up with my list when that’s the only conversation of the day.

Reading Scripture, especially from cover to cover, the narrative arc from Eden to Golgotha shouts God’s involvement in the weaving of a story. The post-ascension Acts of the Holy Spirit set up one book-end on a continuing story, and that’s where we pick up the thread until the second book-end called The Revelation brings the story to its glorious conclusion. In all this weaving of story, God is no less present as the main character in these days of Google and Facebook than He was on Mt. Sinai. In spite of my persistent doubts, prayer is still a conversation with the God of the universe, even if my face does not glow after every encounter.

In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, he refers to this planet as “the Kingdom of Noise,” and since he was writing in the 1940’s, his readers would have been nodding their heads (and clicking their tongues in disapproval?) about the persistent background noise of “the wireless” in their homes–and maybe a Victrola? It’s no wonder that 21st century believers mistake prayer for a one-sided conversation. After all, podcasts abound, Alexa speaks audibly, and even my antiquated GPS (which I love) gives me spoken directions when I veer off course. In all the aural chaos, how are we to distinguish the voice of God from our own tangled thoughts?

I’m reading A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller, and it’s about time! He writes from such an awareness of my frustration with prayer that it’s practically eerie, and yet I am encouraged by his insights to persevere and to cultivate a praying life that is commensurate with the way I talk (and write) about my relationship with God. For Miller, prayer “feels like dinner with good friends.” There’s no agenda other than simply enjoying each other. That’s the motivation that kept Jesus continually coming to the Father, and if “prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect with God,” (8) and if Jesus felt the need to pray, no wonder we humans are plagued at times by a sense of the absence of God.

Prayer is an Invitation to Come, Weary and Overwhelmed

If “a praying life feels like our family mealtimes,” it’s because “prayer is all about relationship.” (8) When we make it formulaic and tear it away from real life, we miss the point, and it becomes as dry and unappetizing as yesterday’s muffins. In a real relationship, conversations go down rabbit trails, but when that happens in prayer, we complain that we’ve lost our train of thought and are tempted to give up. When it seems as if all our messiness floats to the top like the layer of scum on dirty dishwater, we write ourselves off as hopeless and wish that we could pray with soaring syllables of praise. What a relief to read that prayer is an invitation to come, weary and overwhelmed! The God who made me wants to engage in an authentic relationship with the real me, not some super-spiritual version of me who shows up a few times a day for a quick conversation.

I’m still reading, and A Praying Life may be front and center on my Kindle for a long time, because I have a lot of bad habits to unlearn, and prayer is, after all, the journey of a lifetime.

Thanks for joining me along the way,

michele signature[1]

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55 thoughts on “A Praying Life”

  1. Oh what sweet reminders, Michele . . . and so eloquently penned. Thank you for this today. I’ve lately been thinking that I’m getting a little too caught up in the busy-ness and hype of writing and all the things that go along with that. I know you understand. These words are a reminder to keep first things first. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “It takes just a minute to remove my ear plugs (and my blinders) of busy-ness, anxiety, entertainment, and the endless drivel that occupies my gray matter during waking moments.” Love it! How many times have I felt this way? I have Anne Lamott “Help, Thanks, Wow” up next on my reading list on the same subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘as dry as yesterday’s muffins’ lol I love that. And yes, keeping prayer as real as life is something I have to be continually reminded of. I savored this book myself a few years back. Thanks for bringing this delightful review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve still not finished and am already planning on circling back around. There’s so much freedom in viewing prayer as relationship. Thanks, Linda, for reading.
      And the muffin thought arises from my despair over feeding a household of 3 or 4 when I had gotten used to 7. So many muffins! This morning’s leftovers are going down the road to a friend’s house, because this crowd does not take kindly to “yesterday’s muffins.”


  4. I haven’t heard of this book or author, but they sound good. I love these truths. I’ve used prayer lists off and on, but have had various feelings about them (yes, they help me remember, but they also make prayer time stilted for me rather than conversational). Just remembering that God is m welcoming heavenly Father who wants me to come to Him is such a blessing. I hadn’t thought about the fact that conversations with others veer into rabbits trails, and we don’t have to feel guilty when that happens in prayer, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I also maintain lists for prayer, and I do find them good for remembering and also for rejoicing over answered prayer. That rabbit trail thought hit me like a tidal wave, because I have a tendency to treat prayer like a business meeting with an agenda and all. Very freeing to think that our unguarded moments are not an offense to the God who loves us.


  5. I loved reading about your stop to listen to the waves of the ocean after mowing. Seeing peeks into your life’s experiences are always my favorite parts of coming here, sweet friend. God bless you always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s so encouraging, Cheryl. Sometimes I wonder about all my crazy experiences that get shared on the blog, but it’s good to know that they resonate for you in your reading here.


  6. This sounds like another great book, Michele. I have been on a discovery of finding new ways to pray for a while now. It seems like it gets so easy to be stuck in just one “way” of praying. But you are so right, that prayer should be a “feast” with the ONE who is our most important! Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this one, Michele! Prayer with God is indeed a two-way conversation, and we have the blessing of His written Word to confirm the voice we sense from Him. All over the place I’m being reminded of His relentless pursuit of us. Yes, He seeks relationship with us and prayer is key. So glad the book you’re reading is speaking to your frustrations about it. Thanks for linking with us at BVN. Have a blessed weekend, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Man, this really hit me: “but there’s an emptiness in a prayer life that ends up as a shopping list.”

    Sometimes I feel like I’m reading a shopping list. I think my most genuine prayers happen on runs or in the car when I’m just talking to God–praising Him and reflecting on what He’s done or is in the process of doing. It feels more organic. It’s still work in progress and will continue to be until I can just hug Him and be done with it, but for now, my prayer life looks a lot like cartoon thought bubbles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, me, too, and snatches of song and spoken-right-out-loud questions about the things that seem right now to be so inscrutable.
      Hmm . . . I hadn’t thought about heavenly hugs.


  9. Prayer is a chat with God, I read about a spiritual giant years ago who woke up each morning & said good morning Lord, then at night said good night heavenly Father…he had been chatting with the Father all through the day!

    I wanted that…so have been making “chatting with the Father” an all day experience, I am still learning though but it has been so very freeing & enjoyable! He is with us all the time, so even in the silence we are communing! ;-D

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a good read, Michele. I’ve always known God’s continually speaking, but we’re not always tuned in- like a radio station always playing but we aren’t tuned into the frequency to hear it. So hard w 2 little ones running crazy but I’m blown away by God’s ability to get my attention and speak to me in spite of it. Love the analogy of prayer like a dinner conversation- relaxed conversation throughout the day has been more my speed lately! Thanks for the encouragement!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This sounds like a really helpful book, Michele! It is easy for the noise of the world to drown out God’s voice in our lives so it’s important to discover ways of stilling ourselves to listen to him. I also love the focus on prayer being about relationship and spending time together and that if the conversation wanders off-track at times that’s ok!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This book sounds great. I used to think prayer had to be big and that I would have to use fancy words and be at my best…how wrong I was. I know I can come to Him at any time and that he is always present. I am in constant communication with Him at all times. What a sweet post with great reminders.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This, my friend: “I’ve been absorbing the idea that it’s not self-talk that’s going to change me or my way of thinking. It’s more productive for me to turn that stream of words toward the God who is always there listening anyway.” Thank you and Amen. Your words bless me this morning. Thanks for sharing honest reflection and tips from what sounds like a must-read on this praying life. What a gift that the God of the Universe wants to converse with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and when we dwell in that perspective–the gift that prayer is–it becomes so obvious that we need to make it a priority! Thanks, Bethany, for reading and sharing and encouraging!


  14. Your thoughts and obviously the author’s mirror many of my own. I found especially freeing the idea that rabbit trails are part of other conversations and shouldn’t cause us to give up in frustration when we find ourselves getting off track in prayer. Thanks for another book offering that can grow us in our walks with God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, fun!
      And I’m so glad to know that you are loving the book! I just finished it this weekend myself, and I’m going back to re-read sections, working on some 3×5 cards, and just mulling it over.
      I know what you mean about the “fresh life.” Me, too.


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