Last night I finally started reading Paul E. Miller's A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World. After finishing chapter 2 I put the book down and realized that something Miller just said to me was going to change things. Here's the paragraph.
"...don't hunt for a feeling in prayer. Deep in our psyches we want an experience with God or an experience in prayer. Once we make that our quest, we lose God. You don't experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him, you enjoy him. He is, after all, a person. (pg, 21)
I'm not sure that I hunt for a feeling in prayer, but the thought that I shouldn't seek to experience God, but experience life with God is the kind of precise exhortation I need. God isn't a feeling, but a person I was made to know. It's like with my wife, Jen. I don't set out to experience her, I seek to know her more fully and experience life with her.
He also likens prayer to a family meal - a beautiful picture I can appreciate. As he unpacks this idea he points out that we often think of prayer solely in terms of the words we are using. We so focus on the conversation that we miss out on the person with whom we are talking. At his family meals (what he considers his family's "best times") no one is working on the conversation - it flows out of their love for one another. Miller says,
Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversatin is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure of where to go. (pg. 20)
I met with some young men at our church yesterday, and as we shared how we could be praying for one another I told them one area to always pray for in my life is prayer. They lifted me up yesterday and God is already coming to my aid through Miller's book. If you don't have it, get A Praying Life.