Can you believe it has been three weeks already? This is when it really starts to get good and convicting in A Praying Life. I have highlighted so much in this book and already learned so much about myself. I hope you have too. It is not too late to start! The chapters are short and easy to read. If you feel overwhelmed, just commit to answering one question OR tell me a sentence or line in the book that has stuck out to you the most. Let me know what you are highlighting. If you can’t find time to read, take a bath instead of a shower and read in the bathtub – we all need to be clean – so multitask and read while bathing. It is my favorite time of the night.
Chapter 6 Learning to be Helpless
In this chapter I loved how he described prayer as “bringing your helplessness to Jesus.”
“Then it dawned on me that my inability, my mini depression, was my door to God. In fact, God wanted me depressed about myself and encouraged about his Son. The gospel uses my weakness as the door to God’s grace. That is how grace works. Less mature Christians have little need to pray. When they look at their hearts (which they rarely do), they seldom see jealousy. They are barely aware of their impatience. Instead, they are frustrated by all the slow people they keep running into. Less mature Christians are quick to give advice. There is no complexity to their worlds because the answers are simple—“just do what I say, and your life will be easier.” (Oh my! How many times have I said this – too many to count!) I know all this because the “they” I’ve been talking about is actually “me.” That is what I’m naturally like without Jesus.”
Ouch, I felt that, did you?
“As we mature as Christians, we see more and more of our sinful natures, but at the same time we see more and more of Jesus. As we see our weaknesses more clearly, we begin to grasp our need for more grace. Then it dawned on me that my inability, my mini depression, was my door to God. In fact, God wanted me depressed about myself and encouraged about his Son. The gospel uses my weakness as the door to God’s grace. That is how grace works. Less mature Christians have little need to pray. When they look at their hearts (which they rarely do), they seldom see jealousy. They are barely aware of their impatience. Instead, they are frustrated by all the slow people they keep running into. Less mature Christians are quick to give advice. There is no complexity to their worlds because the answers are simple—“just do what I say, and your life will be easier.” I know all this because the “they” I’ve been talking about is actually “me.” That is what I’m naturally like without Jesus. mature Christians feel less mature on the inside. When they hear Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), they nod in agreement. They reflect on all the things they’ve done without Jesus, which have become nothing. Mature Christians are keenly aware that they can’t raise their kids. It’s a no-brainer. Even if they are perfect parents, they still can’t get inside their kids’ hearts. That’s why strong Christians pray more.”
Did this change how you defined Christian Maturity? It did for me.
This really stood out to me:
“If we think we can do life on our own, we will not take prayer seriously. Our failure to pray will always feel like something else-a lack of discipline or too many obligations. But when something is important to us, we make room for it. Prayer is simply not important to many Christians because Jesus is already an add-on. That is why, as we’ll see later, suffering is so important to the process of learning how to pray. It is God’s gift to us to show us what life is really like.”
But my favorite part, “It didn’t take long to realize that I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids and more to God. It was actually quite relaxing.”
Chapter 7 Crying “Abba” Continously
He opens the chapter with a staff meeting discussion – we have all been there. He said, “my mind churns with ideas and my mouth is eager to assist.” Oh, how I can relate. He is being quiet in the staff meeting regardless of the ideas forming. He said he praying –“Father, Father, Father.”
“Why am I quietly crying out for help? My tendency to interrupt in staff meetings is a “dry and weary land.” When I feel my inner Barney Fife crying out for attention, I pray quietly, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Like Augustine, my heart is restless, and I need to find rest in God. I’m at my worst when I’m passionate about a new idea. I can drift into selling instead of listening and can easily become dominating. My heart is a dry and weary land. But when I begin to pray, the energy of my life is directed into the life of God and not into changing people’s minds . . . and I shut up.”
Anyone? Anyone? Just need to shut up? Yeah, me too!
“I discovered myself praying simple two and three-word prayers, such as Teach me or Help me, Jesus. The psalms are filled with this type of short bullet prayer. Praying simple one-word prayers or a verse of Scripture takes the pressure off because we don’t have to sort out exactly what we need. Paul tells us, “We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Often we are too weary to figure out what the problem is. We just know that life—including ours—doesn’t work. So we pray, Father, Father, Father.”
Did you try this week? Short phrases or words cried out to God – did it change you?
“A praying spirit transforms how we look at people. As we walk through the mall, our hearts can tempt us to judge, despise, or lust. We see overweight people, skinny people, teenagers with piercings and tattoos, well-dressed women, security guards, and older people shuffling along. If we are tempted to judge an overweight person, we might pray that he or she loses weight. When we see a teenage girl with a nose ring, we can pray that she would find her community in Christ. When we see a security guard, we might pray for his career. When we pass an older couple shuffling along, we can pray for grace as they age.”
Have you noticed this type of difference a praying life can bring?
“Jill feels the pressure to obsess over neatness. As we walk by this immaculate house, she’ll start praying repeatedly, God, save me from myself. God, save me from myself. When our kids were teenagers, Jill asked me, “Do you know what our family needs most?” Lots of things came to mind, including a newer car. Her one-word answer took me completely by surprise: “mercy.” We didn’t need to get more organized. We didn’t need more money. We needed mercy. That mind-set creates a praying heart. A praying life isn’t simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can’t even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus.”
WOW, I have so much to “get.” Are you starting to slip into prayer throughout the day?
Chapter 8 Bending Your Heart to Your Father
“Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God. When we do that, we’ll discover that we’ve slipped into continuous praying.”
Slipping into prayer . . . I love it!
“Your heart can become a prayer factory because, like Jesus, you are completely dependent. You needed God ten minutes ago; you need him now. Instead of hunting for the perfect spiritual state to lift you above the chaos, pray in the chaos. As your heart or your circumstances generate problems, keep generating prayer. You will find that the chaos lessens.”
Have you found your chaos lesson as you slipped into prayer?
“When you pray continuously, moments when you are prone to anxiety can become invitations to drift into prayer. A traffic jam, a slight from a friend, or a pressured deadline can serve as a door to God. You’ll find yourself turning off the car radio to be with your Father. You’ll wake up at night and discover yourself praying. It will be like breathing.”
I am not here yet but want to be!
“Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.” I can’t wait for my life to sparkle with wonder.
Next week, we begin Part 2 Learning to Trust Again! It is getting so good! Please read chapters 9-11. Let me hear from you!