I finally got around to reading Rob Bell’s controversial book, Love Wins. I know that I’m on the tale end of the clamor that has surrounded this book. My delay in reading and contributing to the discussion comes from two things – a really full and packed schedule, and second, I didn’t want to buy the book so I had to wait for someone to get it so that I could borrow it (thanks, Mike!) I’m not going to approach this review like the more academic book reviews I’ve written, but rather, I want to try and demonstrate what a gracious orthodoxy looks like in hopes that you will be able to respond thoughtfully to those in your relational circles (after having read the book, of course). I’m going to divide this review into two parts so that it doesn’t get too long. I’ll begin with a general critique of his mechanics then talk about the strengths of his book. The second part will then discuss the weaknesses and misperceptions. Continue reading
Last week, I finished reading a book by Paul Miller called, “A Praying Life”. I’ve read a number of prayer books in my journey, but I must say that this book has an altogether different quality. I say that because Paul takes a very simple concept about prayer and intertwines it around his own life story and journey – especially his learnings from his autistic daughter, Kim. Incidentally, I find that the men and women who have taught me most about what prayer is all have had incredible difficulty in their lives, a long-lasting storm that required constant dependence and reliance on the Lord.
Paul reasserts the commonly held and cherished idea that God is our Father and we are his children, and he applies it to prayer. In a thoroughly Gospel-motivated examination of this idea, he asks the question, “if we really believe that God is our Father, why do we not come to him as little children in prayer?” That is, why do we feel like our prayer requests and the way we pray need to be ordered, well thought-out, and reasonable if God’s going to respond? Why don’t we just ask like little children?
He examines the Scriptures to take a closer look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer, and he challenges us to go to God as we are – not put together, not made up, not fake, but in true open, unabashed asking. I found this reminder to be totally liberating in my prayer life. I realized that I had put up so many obstacles and excuses in my praying that I failed to come to God at all. I was afraid to ask as a child. Instead, I thought I needed to ask like well-educated, well-rounded pastor/theologian. But God’s not impressed with that. He wants me to come!
Subsequently, this has opened up a new appreciation for the concept of importunity. Importunity is the incessant, persistent, ‘refusing to take NO for an answer’ type praying. Jesus teaches about this kind of importunity in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). The basic point is that if an unjust judge will give in to the incessant demands of a widow for justice, how much more will a just God give in to the requests of his elect children? We can ask, and we can ask with boldness, with nagging, and with repetition. God is a father to us. Granted, this opens up various theological questions about unanswered prayer, and praying with sinful motives, etc., but the point we must not lose in all this is that we first ask.
Paul then gives various tools to help us pray not just rote lists, but stories as God is writing them. I find that this makes my prayer much more imaginative, my listening to prayer requests much more informative, and my praying much more intentional. I hope to invite Paul Miller’s ministry to come to CF to do a PrayerLife seminar (based on the book) next January as part of our annual prayer emphasis.
Until then, you may want to pick this book up and give it a good read. Your prayer life and the people you pray for will thank you for it.