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A Praying Life, Chapter 25

Chapter 25: "Praying Without a Story" | Week of August 26, 2018

“If we give up on him, he does not give up — for there’s no way he can be false to himself.” – 2 Timothy 2:13 (The Message)


What is your response to unanswered prayer? That's the question Paul Miller explores in this week's chapter of A Praying Life. The answer might be just as uncomfortable as unanswered prayer feels. "We don't like the messiness of unanswered prayer—or answers that are different from what we requested." (Page 199) Miller encourages us to do honest self-assessment at times like these.

Miller suggests that, often, we only look at an unanswered prayer from our limited and self-centered perspective, feeling hurt by God's actions but perhaps not recognizing our own role in the situation. He shares the story of Joanne, who has become bitter in prayer, and sadly notices that "I hear 'sinned against' but not 'sinner.' The way she tells it, God is the only bad guy." (Page 199) If you're being honest, how often do you do the same thing?

Miller proposes that we grow bitter with unanswered prayer when we assume the story is ours rather than God's. How so? We do this when we are so focused on our desired outcome that we fail to see God might be writing an even bigger, better story that has not yet seen its conclusion. "Living in our Father's story means living in tension. After all, tension and overwhelming obstacles make for a good story!" (Page 203)


Miller provides three reminders when you face unanswered prayer (on page 203):

  1. Don't demand the story go your way.
  2. Look for the Storyteller. Look for his hand, and then pray in light of what you are seeing.
  3. Stay in the story. Don't shut down when it goes the wrong way.

Spend a few minutes assessing the things you are struggling with, including unanswered prayers, with the above three reminders.      


After you've reflected, pray over your problem in light of what you most struggle with. Are you insisting on your own way? Or are you focused on the problem rather than God, the Storyteller? Or perhaps you feel so overwhelmed you shut down. Ask God to show you his story and what he might be hoping to accomplish in you.   


Please pray for our neighbors on Maui and the Big Island as they face cleanup from record-setting rain and brushfires in the wake of Hurricane Lane. Praise God, too, for how he spared lives and property in such a miraculous way in the face of one of the most powerful storms to pass Hawaii in recent history. “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29).    


Miller observes, "Often when you think everything has gone wrong, it's just that you're in the middle of a story." (Page 205) Spend some time talking about your children's favorite stories and how there is tension in the middle before everything is set right. Pray that you will be on the look out for how God writes stories in your own lives so that you can be patient when you are in the tense parts!

Tags : prayer, devotional