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A Praying Life, Chapter 9

Chapter 9: "Understanding Cynicism" | Week of May 6, 2018

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." – Matt. 6:13


"The opposite of a childlike spirit is a cynical spirit. Cynicism is, increasingly, the dominant spirit of our age.... Cynicism is so pervasive that, at times, it feels like a presence. Behind the spirit of the age lies an unseen, personal evil presence, a spirit. If Satan can't stop you from praying, then he will try to rob the fruit of praying by dulling your soul." (Miller, A Praying Life, pages 63-64)

The connection between cynicism, spiritual warfare and prayer are important to recognize. In this week's sermon on Daniel 10, we were given a glimpse at the spiritual realities behind much of the evil in the world, as well as God's loving response to the prayers of Daniel. As Miller notes in this chapter, cynicism is attractive because it feels authentic, like we know better. Yet that attitude only destroys our opportunity for intimacy with God and others.

"A praying life is just the opposite. It engages evil. It doesn't take no for an answer.... Prayer is feisty." (Page 65) Has your prayer life maintained a level of feistiness in the face of disappointments and challenges? The opposite of cynicism isn't a naive optimism that shapes life around bumper sticker philosophies. Instead, its opposite is hope. Biblical hope is trusting that God always upholds his promises, even when the path to resolution passes through the valley of the shadow of death.


Based on the above reflection, would you describe yourself as cynical, naively optimistic, or biblically hopeful most of the time? What are the areas that your cynicism protects? What do you think your life would look like if you trusted God to be with you in those situations, and know that his promises will bring ultimate resolution? What would "feisty prayer" look like for you? 


Pray about your cynicism (or, if necessary, your naive optimism that doesn't trust God so much as it trusts that "everything will work out fine"). Pray specifically about those areas where your cynicism bubbles up to the surface — for example, are you overly perfectionistic, always looking for hidden motives, disconnected from God and others, or simply overwhelmed? Tell God about those things, and pray how Jesus taught us to pray, asking God the Father to "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." (Matt. 6:13)


In Daniel we see that, along with the personal evil of individuals and the corporate evil of societies and governments, there is also spiritual evil opposing God and His people. Pray generally for the defeat of Satan's schemes in the world, and specifically for the protection of God's church around the world, including ours. 


Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Talk with your kids about how that relates to our trust in God, and pray together that your faith will grow together as a family.