One nonfiction Christian book I’ve consistently encountered on “Top 10” lists is Paul E. Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. Given the paucity of great books on prayer, I kept the book in mind and finally ordered it through my library.
I’ll jump right to the point: This is good, contemporary book on prayer that you should read.
Given the number of reviews I’ve read elsewhere that credited the book with transforming readers’ entire outlook on prayer, that expectation of greatness seemed assured. Yet as I delved into A Praying Life, my hope for a personally transforming read got mired in the book’s many frustrating inconsistencies and Miller’s ultimate concessions to the good when the best was in reach.
But let’s start with the pros of the book first.
Miller hits the mark immediately by using his own prayer life and family situation as a framing mechanism that runs throughout the book. That personal vulnerability mirrors Miller’s primary statement about how we should approach prayer: We must come to God transparently, just as little children do.
I’ve long thought that pretense destroys the prayer lives of more people than nearly anything else. We formalize our prayers and put on airs, yet the most primal prayer in the Bible is simply “Abba, Father.” (Any of us who have been around in the Faith long enough have heard that abba is the equivalent of daddy.) Miller rightly saves us from grandiosity in prayer by relentlessly going back to this truth that we are the children of God and that coming to Him as children with a childlike faith is what frees us to truly pray.
And just like children who are so powerless to control their own lives because they are dependents, we are to understand that we cannot control our adult lives, either. God is ultimately in charge, so our dependence on Him to meet our needs is natural and must be embraced.
Yet how we fight against surrendering our mistaken notions of control! Praying “give us this day our daily bread” goes unheard throughout much of American Christianity, given that our ideology is based more on bootstrapping and being self-made rather than dependent and God-made. We may say it, but we don’t actually live as if “give us this day our daily bread” is a prayer necessity. We instead rely on our own smarts, abilities, and money, and we turn God into some second-rate grandfather who we come to only when we need more than what we can already provide for ourselves. (On the other hand, Miller also warns against overspiritualizing our practice of the faith, which tends to defeat childlikeness.) Miller insists self-centeredness keeps us from enjoying the life we could truly live in faith, a better life than we can make on our own and the only life worth living.
Inevitably, this self-reliance results in cynicism when the wheels fall off. Life eventually shatters our can-do optimism. We begin to question God’s love for us, and our intimacy with Him crumbles. Our lives start overflowing with snarky responses and wry smiles at those who truly try to live by faith.
(In my own life, I’ve seen this response constantly in other men. By nature, we men are rational fixers. Why default to prayer when a methodology or practical “duct tape” response can fix the problem? Nearly every time I get together with men to pray over issues, the result is 55 minutes of advice on how to fix the issue and 5 minutes of praying. Inside this thinking, cynicism reigns: Practical, man-made answers mean more than pie-in-the-sky prayers.)
Miller blames our culture for promoting cynicism. He portrays cynicism as a perpetual critique of the world, one that is detached and distant (and therefore powerless) in dealing with the larger problems that face us. It leads to paralysis, darkness, and hopelessness, which often manifests as depression and other psychiatric disorders.
In contrast, the praying life actively fights evil and won’t take no for an answer. This response, again, is found in childlikeness. Children continue to believe even when faced with the “facts.” Creating time for thankfulness and repentance also works to break cynicism’s hold on us.
Up to this point, Miller has hit all the right notes. But even this early in the book, cracks begin to show. The chapters afterward reveal an increasing tendency to undermine what was written previously.
Miller continues by assaulting rationalism and its effects on believing for great things in prayer. He covers our bifurcated view of the realms of the “real” world and the spiritual world and how we’ve suffered for that split. He tosses the Enlightenment into the mix and blames it for the overly scientific way we view our lives and the world around us.
In the midst of this failure, Miller returns to the faith of a child, telling the story of the son of two rational New York Times journalists who chronicle, to their own amazement, the faith of their 4-year-old son. When the boy’s father ends up embedded with troops in Iraq, the boy prays. His mother questions this, yet the child cannot reject his belief that God is there for his dad. (The child as father to the woman would be the natural subtitle to this story.) Again, Miller reinforces that asking for big things falls into the realm of the childlike.
Miller then takes issue with scientific studies that attempt to show that prayer doesn’t work. He deflects these attempts by invoking prayer as a mystery, equating its otherwordly nature to quantum physics and Schrödinger’s cat. Putting prayer under a microscope obfuscates rather than clarifies. Miller later notes that attempts to systematize prayer also lead us away from genuine meaning.
At the conclusion of this section, the train of Miller’s thoughts starts to go off the rails. He writes about motives in prayer, how asking for the wrong things will inevitably lead to disappointment, and how we sometimes forget to pray for the little things (even those that seem highly materialistic or self-serving, such as a vacation home or parking space). Also, he notes that we don’t pray for the Kingdom to come or for God to change us because doing so threatens our little kingdoms and our self-righteousness.
The concluding chapters of the book discuss the practical ways in which Miller prays. He keeps prayers on note cards, tracks answers to prayer, and maintains a prayer journal. He also advises that we refrain from making any statements that “God told me to do such and such.” Rather, we should sit back and see how God weaves the story of our lives around our prayers.
As I noted, A Praying Life is a good book that fulfills its mission to provide practical advice on prayer.
That said, I had many problems with the book that I feel ultimately diminish its usefulness.
I mentioned internal inconsistencies. Sadly, they are many. In addition, Miller omits what I believe to be essential aspects of understanding prayer. He also sets up a gotcha that makes the book impervious to review. To me, these problems make it much more difficult to apply the good parts of the book to one’s prayer life.
Let’s start with the gotcha.
Critiquing A Praying Life runs the risk of violating Miller’s definitions of cynicism. In essence, his definition takes on the Evangelical equivalent of the charismatic’s “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed.” But honestly, I think the book has problems. If that makes me a cynic, I’m sorry. I guess that label has to stick, even if I don’t believe it’s true.
The omissions also bother me.
Miller had almost nothing to say about the role of the demonic in actively opposing prayers. He mentions Satan a few times, but little is said about the invisible war that goes on in the heavenlies when we pray. (Daniel 10 immediately comes to mind.) How can we understand prayer, especially negative replies or long-running prayers apparently stuck in limbo, without some understanding of the opposition to our prayers?
The Holy Spirit’s role in our prayers is also underdeveloped. In what ways does the Spirit guide us in prayer? How should we understand that the Spirit prays in groans deep for words (Rom. 8:26)? And what does Miller understand 1 Cor. 14:15 to mean? As redeemed saints who now have the infinite God dwelling within us, these questions matter. Failing to address them in depth, especially in a book on prayer, seems like a huge oversight.
I was also bothered by those omissions that failed to delve into the harder questions behind the author’s premises. The major one for me concerned cynicism.
Miller places the blame for cynicism on a number of secular sources but never asks the killer question, especially in light of his premise about childlikeness: Aren’t repeated disappointments in prayer outcomes as a child the genesis for adult cynicism?
I know that when I was a young, baby Christian I prayed relentlessly and with full, childlike faith that one of my favorite relatives, a young woman with a hearty laugh and a zest for life, would beat her leukemia. She didn’t. That was a crushing blow.
While I have moved on from that episode and many other disappointments in those early days of my young faith, resisting cynicism was almost impossible. I think that is the case for many Christians.
And yet Miller didn’t truly visit this as a reason for cynicism, nor did he show how to combat it. We can blame any number of sources for cynicism in our society but we simply can’t ignore that one. The 4-year-old mentioned above may one day see his dad come home from the Middle East in a body bag. It happens. What then? What happens to that youngster and his prayer life?
A final underdevelopment is the reality that prayer is meant to help us possess God Himself. Miller does an exemplary job discussing presenting our needs before God but not nearly enough on prayer as a means of dwelling in God’s presence and abiding in Him. Yet this is the one aspect of prayer I believe most people struggle with more than any other. God alone as our sufficiency is a foreign concept to too many of us, but this book doesn’t fully address that most vital aspect of prayer.
The inconsistencies in the book also left me puzzled.
If we’re analyzing our motives in prayer, in what way is that childlike? Does a child ever question his own motives or whether he’s being greedy? I would contend that some of the most sensitive Christians among us perpetually worry about their motives, which would seem to utterly defeat childlike prayer.
In fact, the further one reads in A Praying Life, the more it seems Miller takes his original assertion about childlikeness and tacks on so many qualifiers that the entire idea of coming to God as a child gets swamped by all the “adult” things one must take into account when praying to our Heavenly Father. Where does this leave the reader? Perhaps Miller should have stopped writing past the end of Part 2 of the book.
Another problem arises when Miller says that we should not attempt to put prayer under a microscope, yet he keeps track of his prayers and their outcomes. So we can’t allow scientists to test prayer, yet we can do it ourselves? Hmm. And how childlike is a prayer journal? Isn’t that a bit systematic, too? Weren’t we warned earlier against such things? (Likewise, Miller omits the downside of prayer journals: spending all of one’s time journaling and almost none actually praying. Been there, done that, and I’m not the only one, I’m sure.)
Critiques of those who overspiritualize the practice of the faith abound in the book, yet Miller falls prey to this problem repeatedly. First, he attempts to find meaning in everything that happens, yet the Bible tells us in the Book of Ecclesiastes that some parts of life are meaningless. Sometimes the race is not to the swiftest runner. The strongest don’t win the battle. Sometimes, stuff just happens. My spilling my cup of coffee in the morning may NOT be God’s way of telling me I ‘m too harried and need to slow down. It may just mean I’m clumsy because I’m still groggy because I haven’t had my coffee yet.
In that same way, trying to ascribe meaning to unanswered prayers or prayers that seem to go in ways we did not predict doesn’t always mean that God is trying to teach us something. Or He may be. Wisdom is in seeing this for what it is. That’s another avenue for the Holy Spirit’s inner revelation.
I was also mystified by Miller’s story about his daughter having a fondness for certain cars the family once owned or were thinking of buying, and he and his wife’s purposefully trying to weed that out of her lest she become materialistic. If that’s not overspiritualization, I don’t know what is. I mean, I have fond memories of my mom’s old station wagon and my dad’s Datsun 200SX, but neither turned me into a slave of the material. Worse, this story undermines Miller’s point about it being okay for him to pray for a vacation home. I realize that illustrations may not always correlate, but this was still strange.
Miller’s contention that we should avoid saying that “God told us _____” is also problematic, as Miller repeatedly tells readers how God gave him insights into various aspects of his prayers, especially when the result didn’t come out exactly as hoped. This is the classic dilemma of those who don’t want to appear to be a charismaniacs yet who still need to find a way to explain life. Nonetheless, God either tells us things or He doesn’t.
But the 800-pound inconsistency in the book comes from the many life illustrations of Miller’s interactions with his autistic daughter.
I must be careful here. I don’t want to write anything that becomes unkind, as I mean no ill toward Miller or his family.
I will also add that I have a situation of my own life that is similar to Miller’s great struggle. I understand the pain. I know how hard it can be.
Miller writes a section dealing with Jesus’ bold assertions about prayer: Ask and you shall receive. He writes throughout the book of the little things he and his wife have prayed regarding their daughter and how they received positive responses.
But the question I have, and this impinges on all prayer requests all Christians everywhere make, is why not ask for the big one? Ask God for complete healing this side of heaven for the daughter and trust Him for it.
That’s a tough one. And it’s a tough one because no matter how much we may beat on rationalism, the Enlightenment, and the concession of the West to science, we American Christians are scared to death of being a little child that asks God for the big thing only to have it not come about. Miller notes that when people ask him why an ill Christian who had thousands praying for him dies anyway, he sidesteps the question by stating that it’s not his life story so he can’t comment. Would the Apostle Paul not comment? I don’t think so. I believe he would have an answer, so we must—or else we are forced to question everything.
We have not because we ask not. Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7). There are no qualifiers beyond the first two. That statement by Jesus is how Peter was able to say to the beggar outside the Beautiful Gate, “…rise up and walk!” We either take the words of Jesus at face value or we construct all manner of theological treatises to make them so conditional that we never have to worry ourselves about big prayers in the face of enormous problems. We simply find an end run around the big problem instead.
We are still enslaved by the rational, so we fear the big prayer. Because the big prayer, if it doesn’t come about, exposes something in us that we don’t want to face.
But folks, we have to face it.
The default position is to ascribe failure to suffering, which is what many of us (including Miller) do. But suffering is an aberration. The mark of the Kingdom of God is not suffering but wholeness. This is not to say that we will never suffer this side of eternity, but the New Testament repeatedly shows Jesus and the Church manifesting the Kingdom of God in the here and now by alleviating suffering.
Instead, some of us have embraced suffering. We make easy peace with it. But this confuses the Scriptural view and endorses a new asceticism.
When we embrace suffering, we read portions of the Bible in ways that were never intended. The narrative of blind Bartimaeus takes on a reversed moral. It’s as if we see this man’s blindness as the glory of God working in his life. But that’s not what the Scriptures say. God’s glory was made manifest in Bartimaeus’ healing, not in his suffering. The distinction is key, yet we miss it.
The Bible says this:
And [Jesus] could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.
Again, we can overspiritualize. We can settle for a little and claim it is a lot. Then we are proud of how we’ve taken something less than ideal and transformed it into something wonderful. But in the end, that’s not faith.
We should always pray the big prayer. And we shouldn’t settle for anything less than a big, positive answer. That is faith. That we see so little of that kind of boldness in our modern American churches says more about us than it does about God.
14 thoughts on “Book Review: “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller”
Always looking for new insights into prayer, I read your review of Paul Miller’s book with interest, but I’m thinking the book may puzzle me as well. I’m especially confused about a couple issues you brought up. (I apologize for the length of this post, and I thank you for considering it.)
You relayed the story of the four-year-old boy who prayed the big prayer for his father with complete childlike faith and who was not going to settle for anything less than the big, positive answer he wanted. Then you wondered what would become of his faith if his father came home from Iraq in a body bag. It happens, you said. You referenced Ecclesiastes, stating that sometimes life is meaningless and battles are lost.
My (first) question is: how does acknowledging that bad stuff happens despite the childlike prayers of the faithful correspond with your final point that the reason we do not get the big, positive answers to even our most childlike prayers is because we don’t have enough faith? If some bad stuff does just happen, then is it even possible to ever have enough faith? If some battles are lost, then can we truly expect our big prayers to receive big answers with any real certainty?
How does “sometimes stuff just happens” square with “we have not because we ask not”? If that little boy’s father is maimed or killed, would that mean his prayers were lacking in childlike faith after all? When your relative was not healed, did that mean your own relentless prayers went unanswered because you really weren’t abiding in Jesus like you probably thought you were or because she was somehow embracing her suffering? Does God really work that way? If there are times when life is just plain meaningless, isn’t it possible to ask, yet still have not?
Stating that there are no qualifiers to asking and having beyond “if you abide in Me and My words abide in you” is still stating a pretty big qualifier. It seems, to me, to not only be about taking Jesus’ words at face value but also about actually living in Him and His will. Doesn’t 1 John 5:14-15 speak to this? (We have what we ask for when we ask according to His will.) And Luke 22:42? (Not My will but Yours be done.)
Unless we focus foremost on God’s will, couldn’t childlike expectations for Him to provide what we need become arrogant demands for Him to give us what we want when we want it? Sometimes children who won’t take no for an answer are more like self-centered, willful, cunning brats than they are selfless, obedient, artless angels. Sometimes they are the ones who are more fearful than faithful.
To confuse matters even more for myself, I wonder if John 15:7 actually is the only qualifier for answered prayer. What about 1 John 3:21-22? (We receive what we ask for when we keep His commandments and our hearts do not condemn us.) And 1 Peter 3:7? (Our prayers will be unhindered if we honor our spouse.) And Psalm 66:18-20? (Our prayers will be heard and heeded if we are not holding wickedness in our hearts.) There are undoubtedly others.
Perhaps, then, there is more to asking and having than possessing the courage to pray the big prayers and the confidence to expect the big answers? Perhaps it’s okay to come before God in childlike faith and ask for the big things while still having enough humility to realize that His will may be different than ours, that sometimes stuff really does just happen, and that we may ultimately lose the battle. Perhaps it’s okay to pray the big prayers without wondering if our faith is somehow lacking if we don’t receive the big answers we hope for.
My concern in setting faith against fear and cynicism as primary factors in asked vs. unasked, answered vs. unanswered prayer is: isn’t there a danger of creating a two-class system of Christians? The haves and the have-nots? Only the faith-filled haves receive the big, positive answers to prayer because, surely, they must possess true faith, pray big prayers in a big way, and refuse to take no for an answer. While the fear-filled have-nots lose their battles because, certainly, they must suffer from unbelief, pray small prayers in a small way, and settle for less than God’s best. Can pride and legalism be far behind? Not to mention the accusation that the have-nots may not even be real Christians?
Is it possible that there are other, equally important factors at work? Perhaps most Christians actually do pray the big prayers, but the reason others might not see the big answers is not because of unbelief or fear or cynicism, but simply because God’s ways are not our ways. And perhaps those believers truly are satisfied with God as their portion even if their flesh and heart may fail, are content in whatever circumstance they find themselves, give thanks in everything, and trust God to work all things for their good. Isn’t this also faith?
There is always the dichotomy between what we ask for and what we receive. If we look at this strictly from what the Bible tells us to do, we should always ask. Always. And we should NEVER give up. As for actual outcomes, that should not diminish the earnestness of our praying.
I think the problem is that too many of us assume our asking will go for naught, so we don’t ask for the big prayer at all. We fall into a “Well, God didn’t answer all of Paul’s prayers positively, so what chance do I have?” mentality. We seem to obsess on Paul’s thorn and not on all the other prayers God answered positively in the apostle’s life.
Here’s what I ultimately think (and it agrees with Miller): If we spend our time trying to figure out how prayer works, we end up scrutinizing it to the point that it becomes less than what it is intended to be. And that never gets results.
So pray the big prayer and don’t be afraid to ask for it. I know that’s what I try to do.
Susan, et al.,
BTW, Miller mentions a book on prayer that helped him, Ole Hallesby’s classic Prayer. That’s a fine book that I have in my own library. It has a simple, majestic feel to it that complements Miller’s book well.
Thank you for the additional recommendation. I also see the EM Bounds book on prayer under Dan Recommends…, which I own but have not yet read.
>If we spend our time trying to figure out how prayer works, we end up scrutinizing it to the point that it becomes less than what it is intended to be.<
I absolutely agree with you here. I had to stop reading ANDREW MURRAY ON PRAYER for that reason. I found it, by turns, inspiring and confounding, and I eventually realized I was spending more time trying to understand Murray than I was praying to God.
That is why I am now using DIVINE HOURS FOR SUMMERTIME by Phyllis Tickle. I am not rigid about keeping the hours, and I do not use the practice instead of personal prayer, but in addition to it. I find great value in ancient church tradition and in the writings of the Church Fathers, and the daily prayers, verses, hymns, and readings help keep me focused, while teaching me a prayer language I can use any time.
The comment that impressed me most in your post, Dan, was that of abiding and drawing close as a primary reason for prayer. In my 30+ years of walking with the Lord (in a charismatic context), I have seen the Lord answer some healing prayers immediately, some after years of asking, some when I’d stopped asking, and even a few times when I offered the pain up as a sacrifice of prayer for others. (And, please, folk, don’t get into a theological dither about that one; of course, Christ’s sacrifice was all sufficient. Yet aren’t we also to lay down our lives for others? I sought peace in particular after years of not having a full night’s sleep because of pain. Offering the pain and the sleeplessness, I asked that the Lord use it as He would. The next day the pain vanished.) I think the Lord answered me in such a variety of ways so that my asking would never become formulaic, but always toward knowing Him and His heart. Throughout my years of leaning on Him, He has constantly revealed that He is my All-in-All, that every name attributed to Him is an aspect of His character that He longs to reveal to us. If we seek His face, He will show us His character and become, for us, Jehovah Shalom when we need peace, Jehovah Rapha when we need healing, Jehovah Nissi when we need a battle fought on our behalf, Jehovah Jireh when we need provision, Jehovah Tsidkenu when we need to stand in His righteousness. And so on.
Yes, I ask and often, but resting in Him, drawing close to Him, abiding in Him, giving Him the outcome — and the disappointment — is the place that gives me the answers.
Warfare is hard work. Sometimes I just don’t feel up to it. So, I can relate to those who’d prefer to ignore the need for it and just talk about child-like asking. Still, it’s all part of the equation.
I greatly appreciate Susan’s comments.
>He has constantly revealed that He is my All-in-All, that every name attributed to Him is an aspect of His character that He longs to reveal to us.<
What a wonderful reminder, Normandie! Thank you!
Excellent review, Dan, and one that will be helpful as I read through Paul Miller’s book a second time.
His note cards and prayer journals really threw me off. Until he introduced them, I too thought this might be a revolutionary book for my own prayer life. But I cannot see myself doing a diagram a day when I struggle just to put together two sentences to God some days.
Regarding the lack of mention of demonic opposition: Miller comes from a Reformed background which isn’t known for its recognition of demonic influence.
In the end, I believe Miller will have good things to say to me regarding prayer, and so will my charismatic brothers and sisters.
Miller builds the entire beginning of the book by casting off the traditional “chains” and then takes them back on at the end. That’s a maddening dichotomy.
Don’t be systematic, but then keep cards and journals.
Don’t put prayer under a microscope, but then track answers.
Be a child in your prayer life, but then make sure you run it like an accounting office.
Makes no sense to me at all.
It seems to me like the typical trepidation of the person who successfully climbs the mountain, but then drowns out the call to jump off.
It’s like trying to blend simple, childlike faith with a need to minutely organize and control what it is you’re doing.
Organize and categorize prayer as a theological concept. Put it into the realm of academia.
And, in the process, turn prayer into a dry theological exercise, void of the Spirit and the non-sensical twists and turns He may lead you through that require you not to exercise your mind and make sense of it all, but to exercise simple trust in your Father no matter how much or little sense it makes.
And when you don’t know how to pray, do a little of that groaning. It’s surprising what will happen next.
I’m a long tme lurker on your blog. I was so impressed with how you defended the perpetuity of the gifts at Pyro, and became a devoted reader after reading just a few posts here. I have enjoyed going through your archives–there are few writers who could make me weep, writing about a drive in their dream car.
I haven’t read Miller’s book, so I can’t counter your critique. But after hearing him on FamilyLife today and yesterday, I’m wondering if you have been entirely fair in your judgements, specifically your charge that Miller has failed in praying the big prayers, or that God has not “healed” his daughter Kim.
His ways are not our ways. One of the points it seems to me that Miller is making about prayer is that God takes our prayers, and the seeming nonanswers to our heartfelt cries, and the circumstances of our life, and weaves them into the Great Salvation Story He is making of the histories of every one of His children. Kim has played a vital role in creating in him that desperate neediness of a child and propelling Miller from his acknowledged failures in prayer to the ministry he now enjoys. He says her autism is a gift he would never exchange. She is his crown.
Lest you think he is being very selfish in his assessments, I recommend you see her pictures on his personal blog as well as he documents his visit with her to FamilyLife Today recording studios. Her smile is radiant. Her story, told today, moved me to tears.
Kim is beginning to communicate with the world, and like her, those who have come out of that silence are offering us a fascinating look at another way of thinking. Some “healed” autistics, like Temple Grandin, who says words are her second language and she primarily thinks in pictures, and whose books have helped many to understand neurodiversity, say they wouldn’t support a cure for all the enirety of the autism spectrum. She also thinks of it as a gift. “If I could snap my fingers and become nonautistic I would not do so. Autism is part of who I am.”
As one who has struggled with depression and anxiety, have children with issues even more severe than my own, and even one child of the autism spectrum, I can joyfully agree with Millers asessments of what Kim’s “weakness” has meant to his life. Our thorns in the flesh are real strengths to those believers willing to repent of unbelief, and idolatry. We must repent of making the world’s standards our measure of success: outward health, wealth, beauty, achievements. Disabled people can teach us these things. I know, I worked with kids like Kim for years, and was despairing of my prayers for healing, until God taught me that. Why do you think it is ONLY outward healing that brings glory to God?
In addition I think you overlooked Susan’s very real concern’s:
“My concern in setting faith against fear and cynicism as primary factors in asked vs. unasked, answered vs. unanswered prayer is: isn’t there a danger of creating a two-class system of Christians? The haves and the have-nots? Only the faith-filled haves receive the big, positive answers to prayer because, surely, they must possess true faith, pray big prayers in a big way, and refuse to take no for an answer. While the fear-filled have-nots lose their battles because, certainly, they must suffer from unbelief, pray small prayers in a small way, and settle for less than God’s best. Can pride and legalism be far behind? Not to mention the accusation that the have-nots may not even be real Christians?”
These kinds of concerns led us to leave our church of fifteen years when our pastor aligned with Bill Johnson, and began teaching similar unbiblical sermons as those of the author of “When Heaven Invades Earth.” Johnson, who has announced that his theology does not allow for sickness,is becoming more articulate in his heresy. My brother-in-law, a paraplegic, was told he did not have enough faith after he was prayed for by Johnson and not healed. They may have big prayers up there in Redding’s “cancer-free zone”, but it is an extremely cruel theology for those of us who fall into the camp of the seeming have-nots. I am a happy camper among them, the offscouring of the world.
Thanks for being a devoted reader. That means a lot to me and is a great encouragement.
You started off by saying you haven’t read Miller’s book. I would recommend reading it. My observations stem entirely from what is in the pages of that book. Praying for his daughter’s complete healing was not something he really discussed. I found that omission problematical, especially given the premise and theme of the book.
While I do believe that no one gets off scot-free in this sin-filled world, I also know that the entire point of the Kingdom of God is that it comes into this small “k” kingdom and overthrows it. Despite this, there seems to be an almost cult-like love of suffering that I see arising in the Church. The hallmark of this is a “make-do” mentality that I find runs entirely counter to Scripture. It’s the kind of thinking that tells Bartemeus to shut up and be happy about his condition. I’ve even heard people use that blind man to justify suffering. Yet the truth is that God was glorified in that man’s HEALING. That’s what the Bible says. We cannot forget this or overlook it.
The reasons why people are not healed could fill a book. Even if such a book existed, God tells us to never stop praying for healing and to never give up. The Samaritan woman with the sick child refused to take Jesus’ reproof; she persisted. So must we…
…Unless God tells us to stop. And that’s the key here. God told Paul to stop praying about his thorn because it was there for a reason. That’s our lesson, yet we never seem to understand it for what it is. It’s not a lesson about making do with a problem but hearing God clearly enough to know when we must learn to live with a problem and when we should not.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up praying about a tough situation unless God says so. And it better be a big, clear STOP from Him too! 😉
In my hurry to get the kids to their Park Day, I wrote without rereading and editing. I want to make clear what seems to be implied in what I wrote: It was not Bill Johnson who said my BIL had not the faith to be healed. It was merely one of his acolytes. Hope this clears that up.
God has graciously delivered me from the pit of depression and anxiety, training me in the process to think His thoughts after Him. I walk in His rest now. But it involved six long years of wrestling my thoughts back to His throne of grace, a training I would not now trade for an “instant” healing,the showy kind that my pastor seemed to think would have glorified God more. I still walk with a limp, with a melancholy temperament and it is a continuous reminder of my utter dependence on Him–because His will for me is joy! It is not a cult of suffering, it is a weakness displaying His glory.
I believe it is God’s will for us to be free from fear, and I pray with confidence and determination for the same sound mind I now enjoy to be for my own children. The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman is one the Lord has continuously encouraged me with, to cultivate that desperate neediness that will go to any lengths of self-abnegation for mere crumbs of the Father’s bounty for her child–and so I will agree with you there. There are good reasons in Scripture for us not to stop praying for a sound mind–but who defineswhat is sound? That is what I was trying to say about neurodiversity.
But I see no guarantees in Scripture for physical healing like Bill Johnson claims, so there you have the other side, the cult of prosperity teaching that inflates one greeting in John to a theology that won’t allow for any suffering at all. Both are extremes.