With God on your side is better than at arm’s length

I’ve been reading through “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. In it, he says that prayerlessness “is rooted in a core unbelief that can shape our lives, even as Christians. Because of prayerlessness, our lives are often marked by fear, anxiety, joylessness, and spiritual lethargy.” There is a lot about prayer that we either don’t understand or else we understand and don’t like. In a recent chapter I read, Miller talks about how there is a tendency  we have to avoid intimacy with God.

Why would we do that? Well, for one, we don’t really want God nosing around in our business. Miller says there is a reason, perhaps, that we keep God at arm’s length, even with our prayers to him:

Frankly, God makes us nervous when he gets too close. We don’t want a physical dependence on him. It feels hokey, like we are controlling God. Deep down we just don’t like grace. We don’t want to risk our prayer not being answered. We prefer the safety of isolation to engaging the living God. To embrace the Father and thus prayer is to accept what one pastor called “the sting of particularity.” (A Praying Life, p. 125)

The very human prayer of Jesus asking that “this cup pass from me.” is much different than what Miller sees as the Buddhist and Neoplatonic attitudes that have crept into the church. That is, the attitude that we need to resist our own desires and deny physical urges. Those kind of simple, intimate prayers are the ones we hear children saying because they are more humble than “wiser” adults.

I don’t have it all together. The thing I want to battle against is the attitude that I will not lay it all on the line when I pray. That is to deny a personal God, and it doesn’t honor him.

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