A Praying Life Read Along Week 3

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!

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5 thoughts on “A Praying Life Read Along Week 3

  1. Chapter 6: Who is the greatest Christian woman alive today? WE DON’T KNOW HER NAME. I felt shame to say that mine didn’t even come near my thoughts when I read this question and not in a good humble way.

    The IMMATURE Christian with her little cross and little view of sin has little need to pray. The mature Christian has a large cross and large view of her sin and the result is a greater need to pray. Lord, help me see my sin as you do… large enough to die for.

    How about praying for our kids? I loved this “I did my best parenting by prayer”. Honestly friend, I pray what I want for my kids. Not for their character to grow. Not for things like suffering so they can experience patience and character and hope.

    If we think we can do life on our own – even parent. We will not take praying seriously. Yeah, that one hurt my pride. PRAISE GOD. I would not keep reading if it didn’t hurt. So glad for the challenging and sobering, striking questions this poses to my heart.

    Chapter 7: YES. I need to shut up too. 🙂

    I LOVED the short breaths of prayer. My day just overall seems better. The circumstances haven’t changed but they somehow seem smaller. Not so large in light of how big and awesome my God is!

    Poverty of Spirit versus Discipline. Man, I was slapped by the reality that I treat my walk and Christian time as a discipline. A necessary discipleship. Friend, isn’t discipline the root word of disciple? Yes, and yet I have MISSED completely the opportunity to pray in the poverty of spirit. This made me wanna curl up in a ball. How have I missed Him for 20 years in this way? How did I study this and not hear Him? How have I taught it and missed it completely. My spirit is not poor. I think my cross is growing and my perspective of sin is growing. I am beginning to need to pray in a very different way than just asking God for something else. This took 1 Thes 5:17 to a whole new level.

    Chapter 8: I was reading this out loud. Alyssa came up to me because she heard me use the word “independence” and said “I know that!” When I asked her what she knew she said “we can try and do our best. It’s a good thing.” WOW! Teaching moment as I am learning it myself. “Yes, baby it’s good to try and do our best. But, Jesus said, apart from Him we can do nothing. Dependence is not a bad thing. It’s God’s design for how we are supposed to live for Him. Completely allowing Him to be apart of our life. Then, He can meet us and help us to do our best, because it will be His own. Depend on Jesus for everything and you will lack nothing.” She said in her childlike way as she shrieked it out, “really!?!?! Momma, I am so glad He helps me.” Childlike.

    My favorite line: When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching.

  2. This book is incredible! Talk about just nailing it. When I started reading Chapter 6, I was instantly struck by how blind I’ve been to my own helplessness. I grabbed an index card and began to write down everything I CANNOT do, realizing that I need to pray about these things and stop trying to work them out, figure them out, make them happen on my own.

    I have definitely noticed how much bigger my sin is the longer I walk with the Lord. Sometimes it’s almost discouraging, like I’m not making any progress. But I don’t think that’s true – I think it’s just a greater recognition of God’s greatness and holiness and my smallness and sinfulness as He continues to shine His holy light into my heart.

    Chapter 7 just blew me away. My inner Barney Fife? Oh yeah, always ready to throw out some brilliant idea – right, wrong, or otherwise – just making sure someone hears me.

    The days and times when I feel closest to God are never about Him changing my circumstances – they’re always about how connected I am to Him throughout my day. It’s through prayer. I love those times!

    Anique said it perfectly, “Poverty of Spirit versus Discipline. Man, I was slapped by the reality that I treat my walk and Christian time as a discipline. A necessary discipleship. Friend, isn’t discipline the root word of disciple? Yes, and yet I have MISSED completely the opportunity to pray in the poverty of spirit. This made me wanna curl up in a ball. How have I missed Him for 20 years in this way? How did I study this and not hear Him? How have I taught it and missed it completely. My spirit is not poor.”

    That is SO totally me! I’ve always felt that I didn’t have enough discipline. That’s why my prayer life was so weak and lame. What a lie! That made it all about ME. That meant that I needed to get it together, I needed to focus more on the Lord, I needed to be more disciplined. UGH! Never did I consider that all I needed was to recognize and acknowledge that I am truly poor in spirit. Not only that, but I think I’m passing along the wrong things to my boys. Praise God they’re still young enough to be under my authority and I can share what I’m learning with them. I pray that they can get this before they head into adulthood.

    I loved where he talked about praying for other people everywhere – like at the mall. I can’t say that I do that very often, if at all. I’m far more likely to be critical or judging or comparing or something selfish. Either that, or I just want to be left alone and not interact with anyone. Which is still selfish. A similar thing that He has taught me is that when I see/hear an ambulance, fire truck, police car, or an accident, I try to pray for all the people involved.

    Though Chapter 8 was short, it was jam-packed with amazing truth, too. “Now the Spirit brings the humility of Jesus into our hearts. No longer do we have to be little gods, controlling everything. Instead we cling to our Father in the face of chaos by continuously praying. Because we know we don’t have control, we cry out for grace. Instead of flailing around, our praying spirits can bless everything we touch.”

    Ouch! This really hit home, being the control freak that I can be. Yet what a relief and blessing that I don’t have to have control. I desperately need that reminder. And how beautiful if my praying spirit can bless the things I touch. I, too, can’t wait to see my life sparkle with wonder.

    1. Amen! The discipline part hit me too! I pride myself on being self disciplined but could never discipline myself to pray enough. I wasn’t getting it!

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