“Our best times together as a family are at dinner. At home after a meal, we push our dishes aside and linger together over coffee or hot chocolate. We have no particular agenda; we simply enjoy one another. Listening, talking, and laughing. If you experience the same thing with good friends or with family, you know it is a little touch of heaven.”
Paul Miller says prayer should feel like that. Too often Christians make the act of praying the focus of their prayer – making sure they get their words and phrasing correct, without really thinking about the God to whom they speak. “In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go.”
The only way to get from windshield prayer to driving prayer is to speak to God from the heart. “We don’t learn to pray in isolation from the rest of our lives … Since a praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives, learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime … So don’t hunt for a feeling in prayer … You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him. You enjoy him. He is, after all, a person.
“Consequently, a praying life isn’t something you accomplish in a year. It is a journey of a lifetime. The same is true of learning how to love your spouse or a good friend. You never stop learning this side of heaven.”
As we pray this way, we become more and more aware of God’s love, sovereignty, and wisdom, we hope more and more in God, our prayers become more integrated with our real day-to-day lives, and slowly what’s really in our hearts gets revealed. We find out who we are through prayer.
“I was walking to the train station after work, and without realizing it, I began comparing the mission I worked for with another mission. It dawned on me that I was jealous, trying to make a name for myself at the expense of someone else. My jealousy surprised me. It was not the first time I’d be jealous about this, just the first time I’d named it … So before I got to the train, I prayed, quietly giving my work to Jesus. I remember thinking he might actually take it.
“He did, of course, take it. It happened over several years, beginning with my burnout a few months later. Six years later I was at another train station waiting to go home, when tears started flowing. It had been a hard day at work, and I realized it was over. I had to leave the work I loved.
“How does this story illustrate the praying life? … During those six years God drew me tighter and tighter into his heart. It was a feast for my soul … My prayer was interconnected with every aspect of my life. It affected my attitude toward work – to everything, really … My life became integrated. I understood the connections between my prayer and some of the hard things that came my way. My prayer wasn’t isolated from my life. And finally, my prayer was inseparable from my repentance, from encountering God.”