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A Praying Life, Chapter 5


Chapter 5: "Spending Time with Your Father" | Week of April 8, 2018


“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)


REFLECT:

In chapter 5 of A Praying Life, Paul Miller makes the observation that Jesus lived his earthly life in complete dependence on God the Father. "Whenever Jesus starts talking about his relationship with his heavenly Father, Jesus becomes childlike, very dependent. 'The Son can do nothing of his own accord' (John 5:19). 'I can do nothing on my own' (John 5:30). 'I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me' (John 8:28)." (Page 32) Jesus understands that life only makes sense when its intimately connected to and dependent upon the God who made us.

Sin destroys our sense of dependence upon God. "Adam and Eve began their quest for self-identity after the Fall. Only after they acted independently of God did they have a sense of a separate self. Because Jesus has no separate sense of self, he has no identity crisis, no angst.... He knows himself only in relationship with his Father." (Page 33) If God doesn't serve as our point of reference for our identity, we expose ourselves to building our lives upon so many lesser, weaker things that cannot provide what we want and need. In a sense, sin exposes our ultimate identity crisis, and the lengths we will go to in our attempt to construct an identify we hope will satisfy.

Prayer undercuts our sinful tendency to pursue independent, self-focused and ultimately self-destructive lives. Praying provides an avenue to build an intimate relationship with the only one who can give us the peace and joy we crave. So, do you believe that? As Miller says, "If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life." (Page 37) 

RESPOND:

Prayer is about relationship. Jesus tells us that "apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Listen to Miller: "Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other.... You don't create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you cannot get to know God on the fly." (Page 35)

Spend some time developing a game plan for creating both space and time to spend with God in prayer, and begin practicing this week. There are some great practical considerations for how to set yourself up for success on pages 38-39 of Miller's book.


PRAY NOW:

Pray about your prayer life. In particular, spend a little time meditating on John 15:5, quoted at the top of this week's devotional. Ask God what it means to abide in Jesus. Ask God to show you areas where you are self-reliant rather than dependent upon him. Ask God to give you wisdom about your schedule and your personal tendencies so that you can find a time to devote to prayer that you can commit to. Ask God to meet you in prayer, and to encourage you to trust him more deeply as you make time for intimacy with him. 

PRAY LATER:

Paul Miller observes that Jesus maintained a one-person-at-a-time focus. "Love incarnates by slowing down and focusing on just the beloved. We don't love in general; we love one person at a time." (Page 34). Pick one significant person in your life and commit to praying for them at least twice daily this week – that God will reveal himself to them, bless them, and help them to grow in faith, as well as for whatever specific needs you know they have. 

PRAY AS A FAMILY:

If you're married, talk with your spouse about spending time in prayer together (if you don't already). Start small: if you don't pray together now, maybe try finding one time each week that you can consciously take a few minutes together, as an example. Or maybe make your prayers at meals a little longer so that you aren't simply rushing through to begin eating. Alternatively, it might be worthwhile to begin a routine of praying with your children, either before they leave for school or as they get into bed at night. It doesn't have to be structured so much as consistent. Like we talked about last week, feel free to play with your prayer and find what sticks.