Reviewing a book on prayer is an interesting beast to tackle. First, there is the issue of whether the author stays true to the Word. Is what they are saying biblically true? Second, there’s the issue of whether the author stays true to grace and doesn't fall into legalism. Is what they are saying holding true to the freedom that Christians have to pray and does it then take advantage of that, or do they only talk about a requirement to pray and the consequences of not? Third, there’s the issue of practicality. Does the author treat this book as another theology book on prayer or do they provide practical experiences to help the reader in their pursuit to pray?
Paul Miller’s A Praying Life does well in dealing with these issues. Very well. I have read a couple of books and listened to a handful of sermons on the subject of prayer, but this one takes the cake in my opinion.
In terms of remaining biblically true I would say that Paul Miller does a good job. I can’t remember a time where I theologically cringed, or thought to myself, “Uh oh... What’s he talking about?” One thing that I wish there was more of would be explaining the different promises or verses regarding prayer. He does this a bit, but I wish he would have done it more. Paul Miller also does a great job of humbling the reader. He emphasizes that we have to pray like children who are helpless. That’s fantastic for me because I fall into the trap of thinking that I should pray to get better at prayer, or I should pray only because I know I should. Now it is easier to see that prayer is actually humbling ourselves before God and making our needs known to Him like children. On another note, this book does a great job of feeling real. A lot of books or sermons on prayer leave me in this weird state where I want to pray for three hours the next morning and if I don’t then I probably did not pray in the right way. I don’t pray because I’m making my needs known to God, or worshiping God as my Father, but I’ll just pray to... pray because the book told me I needed to. Miller stayed away from this. I came away feeling like it was possible for a Christian to pray at all times without ceasing. I think the table of contents give an insight into this: Part 1: Learning to Pray Like a Child (with chapter titles like Learning to Be Helpless), Part 2: Learning to Trust Again (with chapter titles like Following Jesus out of Cynicism), Part 3: Learning to Ask Your Father (with chapter titles like Why Asking Is So Hard), Part 4: Living in Your Father’s Story, and Part 5: Praying in Real Life. Miller does a great job of using his experiences to show the reader each aspect of prayer, which was very helpful for me. He’s a great story teller and is good at tying these in to what he’s speaking on.
Overall I would recommend A Praying Life for any Christian who struggles in prayer. This book has been a great help and encouragement to me. Paul Miller does an excellent job dealing with practical issues in prayer in such a way that will leave you wanting to pray.