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A Praying LifeA Praying Life: Connecting to God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. NavPress. 288 pages. 2009

On a recent trip to Europe I had a providential encounter with Paul Miller, this book’s author, and his wife Jill, in a cable car high above Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. I had previously read this book a few years ago, and recently decided to read it again, the third book on the subject of prayer that I’ve read this summer. Our church had hosted one of Miller’s A Praying Life seminars a few years ago, in which this material was covered.

Reading this book gives you the feel of sitting down with the author to talk about prayer as he shares many interesting and helpful stories – biblical stories and those about his family, particularly about his special needs daughter Kim – to illustrate his teaching on prayer.

The book is comprised of thirty-two chapters in five parts. In part one he writes about praying like a child. In part two he writes that the opposite of a child-like spirit is a cynical spirit. He shares six cures for cynicism from Jesus. In part three we learn how to petition God. I enjoyed his section about what to do about Jesus’ extravagant promises about prayer here. In part four we learn about living in the Father’s story. Part five was very practical, with the author discussing how he uses prayer cards and prayer journals. For example, he prefers a prayer card for each individual, feeling it is easier to use than a prayer list, which I use. He shares that he sorts his cards by categories such as family, work and church. I found this to be very helpful.

A few of the things I wrote down while reading the book were:

  • The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. The gospel frees us to ask what is on our hearts. We can’t do it on our own, we need to pray.
  • Helplessness is how the gospel works.
  • God taught him to pray through suffering.
  • Most Christians are frustrated with their prayer lives.
  • What he describes as a praying life is one that is interconnected with the rest of our life.
  • Miller discusses how he parented through prayer and how he uses short and continuous prayers.
  • Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life.
  • Should we pray for parking spaces?
  • God wants our material needs to draw us into our soul needs. To abide means to include Him in every aspect of our lives.
  • Pray to change your children’s hearts.
  • He excesses caution about systems in prayer.
  • To discern when God is speaking to us, we need to keep the Spirit and the Word together.

This is a book to savor, and not rush through. It’s also a book that you will benefit from reading again and again. Highly recommended.
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BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

 Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at
Chapter Three: An Introduction to the Beatitudes:

  • Happiness is the great question confronting mankind. The whole world is longing for happiness and it is tragic to observe the ways in which people are seeking it.
  • The Sermon on the Mount says, however, that if you really want to be happy, here is the way. This and this alone is the type of person who is truly happy, who is really blessed.
  • There are certain general lessons, I suggest, to be drawn from the Beatitudes. First, all Christians are to be like this.
  • From the standpoint of character, and of what we are meant to be, there is no difference between one Christian and another.
  • It is the Roman Catholic Church that canonizes certain people, not the New Testament.
  • The second principle I would put in this form; all Christians are meant to manifest all of these characteristics.
  • None of these descriptions refers to what we may call a natural tendency. Each one of them is wholly a disposition which is produced by grace alone and the operation of the Holy Spirit upon us.
  • These descriptions, I suggest, indicate clearly (perhaps more clearly than anything else in the entire realm of Scripture) the essential, utter difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
  • The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.
  • Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.
  • The Christian and the non-Christian are absolutely different in what they admire. Then, obviously, they must be different in what they seek. Then, of course, they are absolutely different in what they do.
  • Another essential difference between men is in their belief as to what they can do.
  • The truth is that the Christian and the non-Christian belong to two entirely different realms.
  • What is this kingdom, then? It means, in its essence, Christ’s rule or the sphere and realm in which He is reigning.
  • It can be considered in three ways as follows. Many times when He was here in the days of His flesh our Lord said that the kingdom of heaven was already present.
  • It means that; but it also means that the kingdom of God is present at this moment in all who are true believers.
  • The kingdom of God is only present in the Church in the hearts of true believers, in the hearts of those who have submitted to Christ and in whom and among whom He reigns.
  • The third and last way of looking at the kingdom is this. There is a sense in which it is yet to come. It has come; it is coming; it is to come.
  • The vital questions which we therefore ask ourselves are these. Do we belong to this kingdom? Are we ruled by Christ? Is He our King and our Lord? Are we manifesting these qualities in our daily lives? Is it our ambition to do so? Do we see that this is what we are meant to be? Are we truly blessed? Are we happy? Have we been filled? Have we got peace?

Prayer BOOK CLUBTim Keller's New Book on Prayer

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

Chapter 5: Encountering God is conversation with God.

  • We do not want just to know about God, but to know God, to seek his face and presence.
  • The primary theological fact about prayer is this: We address a triune God, and our prayers can be heard only through the distinct work of every person in the Godhead.
  • There are three persons within the unity of God’s being, who are equally divine, who know and love one another, and who from all eternity have together worked for our salvation.
  • The implications of the Triunity of God for prayer are many. It means, to begin with, that God has always had within himself a perfect friendship.
  • We can see why a triune God would call us to converse with him, to know and relate to him. It is because he wants to share the joy he has. Prayer is our way of entering into the happiness of God himself.
  • To be a child of God means access. We know God is attentively listening to us and watching us.
  • Prayer is the way to sense and appropriate this access and fatherly love, and to experience the calm and strength in one’s life that results from such assurance of being cared for.
  • You know that God responds to your cry with the intense love and care of a parent responding to the cry of pain of his or her child—because you are in Jesus, the true Son. You can go to God with the confidence of receiving that kind of attention and love.
  • Paul doesn’t speak merely of the Spirit of adoption but also of the Spirit as “intercessor”:
  • Prayer is the way to experience a powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come.
  • We come to the Father not only in the Spirit but through the Son. We can only be confident that God is our father if we come to him through the mediation of Christ, in Jesus’ name.
  • How could God be our intimate friend? How could we approach him with complete confidence? It is because God became like us, equally mortal and subject to suffering and death. He did it so we could be forgiven and justified by faith apart from our efforts and merits. That is why we can draw near.
  • This leads us to an important related directive of the New Testament regarding Christian prayer—Jesus taught his disciples that they must always pray in his name.
  • That’s the ground motive of Spirit-directed, Christ-mediated prayer—to simply know him better and enjoy his presence.
  • In our natural state we pray to God to get things. When life is going smoothly, and our truest heart treasures seem safe, it does not occur to us to pray. Seldom or never do we spend sustained time adoring and praising God. In short, we have no positive, inner desire to pray. We do it only when circumstances force us.
  • For most of us, he has not become our happiness. We therefore pray to procure things, not to know him better.
  • All this changes when we discover that we have been mired all our lives in forms of self-salvation, and we turn to Christ.
  • John Calvin argues that you may know a lot about God, but you don’t truly know God until the knowledge of what he has done for you in Jesus Christ has changed the fundamental structure of your heart.
  • Without the gospel, there is no possibility of passion and delight to praise and approach the true God.
  • Jesus lost his relationship with the Father so that we could have a relationship with God as father. Jesus was forgotten so that we could be remembered forever—from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus Christ bore all the eternal punishment that our sins deserve. That is the cost of prayer. Jesus paid the price so God could be our father.
  • Prayer turns theology into experience. Through it we sense his presence and receive his joy, his love, his peace and confidence, and thereby we are changed in attitude, behavior, and character.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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