A Praying Life

This summer, Sweet Mercies completed several book clubs.  Katy has agreed to share a little about her experience reading through, A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. 

A few months ago, I wrote on a chalk board in my kitchen the verse, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps 51). Praying this prayer felt easy & so right; who wouldn't want God to create in them a clean heart & renewed spirit? (assuming you're a Christian). I was pumped at having such a perfect and simple life-changing prayer on my wall. I wanted a light switch transformation. Off with my sin & on with purity! But after reading Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life, this verse looked much different to me.

Paul's book explains that relationship with Jesus is the purpose of prayer. Prayer in my life has typically been how I approach many things...as a task to accomplish. Especially as I've gotten older, I have both gotten more cynical & lazy when it comes to my 'verbal' relationship with Jesus. It's kinda easy for me to read the Bible & think of Jesus as a third party. Me and his Word vs me and Jesus himself. Paul gave an example which still stands out to me of a couple getting to know one another. I didn't fall in love with my husband by hearing other people tell me about him or by viewing his life from a safe distance. I fell in love with him by spending time with him. Getting to know him and talk with him and walk through all sorts of situations with him near me. The same is true with Jesus. Spending intimate time without an agenda with Jesus helps me know him. How can I trust and give my life away to someone I don't intimately know? By starting with 5 minutes a day in prayer (recommended by Paul) I've been much more eager to know him more. I also have held my tongue (esp. towards my daughter) with others and voiced it more with Jesus. Paul said on pg 59 "It didn't take me long to realize I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids & more to God. It was actually quite relaxing." I love that! More than anything for my kids I desired them to have a deep relationship with Jesus, so instead of banging them over the head with Bible verses & constant correction I want them to see me have that deep relationship.

What about specific unanswered prayers? We've all been there. Some of us have stopped praying specific things because we've wised up and don't want to deal with disappointment. Recently I have prayed many times, "Lord, I am tempted to be judgmental and manipulative towards my husband today, please change that into love", and many times I follow through with a hurtful word and use manipulation to try to change him. I saw the temptation, prayed ahead of time & yet still did the very thing I had not wanted to do. One friend from book club shared a request for their finances, they simply need to make more more for them to eat & pay bills. My response is, 'I'm going to network & by golly find this family a better job- this kinda pressure on their family has got to stop!' Each week her situation was the same, in fact she was looking to start working a side job to help her family out (which she didn't want to do as she stays home with her kids). What's the point of praying? Could God be using my repetitive sin or their trial with finances for our good & his glory? Paul talks about God being the author of our 'life story'. He says 'living in our Father's story means living in tension. How boring life would be if prayer worked like magic. there's be no relationship with God, no victory over little pockets of evil. What makes up a good story? Drama, heart-ache or suffering are typically there- right? Chapter 21 says, "The hardest part of being in the dessert is that there is no way out. You don't know when it will end. A desert can be almost anything. It can be a child who has gone astray, a difficult boss, or even your own sin or foolishness. God customizes deserts for each of us. God takes everyone he loves through a desert. The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live. to have joy. to do anything of lasting worth. Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what other people think of you. The desert is God's best hope for the creation of an authentic self. Desert life sanctifies you. The best gift of the desert is God's presence." Chapter 23 goes on to say, "Sometimes when we say 'God is silent,' what's really going on is that he hasn't told the story the way we wanted it told. He will be silent when we want him to fill in the blanks of the story we are creating. But with his own stories, the ones we live in, he is seldom silent. When the story isn't going your way, ask yourself, 'what is God doing?' Be on the lookout for strange gifts."

That same week, I prayed for love instead of disrespect and failed miserably. It was in font of some friends. It was embarrassing & I looked like a fool. But the Lord helped me see that failing & falling flat on our faces is part of the 'creating of a pure heart'. An 'on/off' switch would be a lot easier & less embarrassing for me but our friends were actually encouraged by being able to witness my weakness & talk through what God is doing in our lives. It was humbling for me. I don't want to be brought low (esp in front of others!) but when I'm down there who do I find (like Eric said on Sunday)... Jesus. It's in the tough places, the deserts, that Jesus is nearest. 

So now when I pray 'created in me a clean heart O God' I'm looking for Jesus as the author of my story (not a light switch) and I can almost predict there will be some form of suffering along the way because he's after 'thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine'. I'm still praying to be a respectful wife & finances for my friend but I'm filled with faith & not despair when I don't see immediate change...the Author is writing a beautiful drama and I want to see him at work.

A little about Katy: 
My season of life right now consists of lots of clean up time; dishes, laundry & stuff everywhere. When I'm not cleaning I'm typically sitting outside watching my kids play (& breaking up fights!). I also adore being outside especially when it's hot. My hubby, Clay, is the most discerning man I know, which is a love/hate attribute for me because he's very often "right"! My kids are very calm & quiet & never run up on stage during church. Everyday that passes I'm more aware of how fast time is rushing by & I find myself often praying for wisdom and direction. "Lord, may I not float through life with blurry vision- I want to be close to you & do your will"