A Praying Life by Paul Miller has helped my prayer life more than any other book on prayer that I’ve ever read. Miller tells a story in the opening pages that hooked me. Here’s an excerpt:
I was walking down from our campsite to our Dodge Caravan when I noticed our fourteen-year-old daughter, Ashley, standing in front of the van, tense and upset. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I lost my contact lens. It’s gone.” I looked down with her at the forest floor, covered with leaves and twigs. There were a million little crevices for the lens to fall into and disappear.
I said, “Ashley, don’t move. Let’s pray.” But before I could pray, she burst into tears. “What good does it do? I’ve prayed for Kim to speak and she isn’t speaking.”
Kim (Ashley’s sister) struggles with autism and developmental delay…Prayer was no mere formality for Ashley. She had taken God at his word and asked that he would let Kim speak. But nothing happened. Kim’s muteness was testimony to a silent God. Prayer, it seemed, doesn’t work.
…I had little confidence God would do anything, but I prayed silently, Father, this would be a really good time to come through. You’ve got to hear this prayer for the sake of Ashley. Then I prayed aloud with Ashley, Father, help us to find this contact.
When I finished, we bent down to look through the dirt and twigs. There, sitting on a leaf, was the missing lens.
Prayer made a difference after all.
That simple story drew out of my heart a myriad of questions about prayer. Does prayer really do that? Does it make a difference? Are you really allowed to pray about small things like lost contact lenses? Does this dad really think that prayer is what made a difference in finding that lens? Would they have found that lens anyway or did they find it because they prayed? And if so, how come God heard that prayer while He seems to ignore others? Is it because this dad has a closer relationship with God than the average Christian? And on and on it went with each new question leading me down a never-ending trail of successive questions. What this simple story revealed was that I didn’t get prayer. Somewhere along the way, my heart had developed a hard crust of cynicism.
Seeing this in myself, and that many of us at Seven Mile Road didn’t get prayer either, is what led to our preaching on it over the last few months. God has graciously used this series to mature us.
And now, I’ve got a story about prayer to share as well. More on that to come in Part 2…