FAQs about PrayerLife
Find responses here to frequently asked questions on prayer.
Click on a title to expand / contract the answer.
What's the best way to get trained to lead this study?
For starters, attend A Praying Life seminar, or the A Praying Life track at a Jesus Weekend. Afterwards you have two options: (1) you can purchase the A Praying Life Leader's Package and lead a study using this, or (2) you can host A Praying Life seminar at your church.
What options are available to me if I want to bring this study to my church?
You could have your church host A Praying Life seminar or you can lead the study yourself using the A Praying Life Leader's Package. If you choose the second option, we recommend attending A Praying Life Seminar first. Folks at seeJesus want to help you adapt the format to your context – whether it be for youth group, small group leader training, a men's retreat, etc. Contact us for more details.
What will people practically get out of the A Praying Life study?
People will learn how to talk to God, following Jesus as a model. They will be exposed to a the idea of “wilderness”, where God uses hardship (often in the form of unanswered prayer) to deepen us. They will be introduced to God working out his story in us, as we pray. They learn new questions to help them begin to see God's story in their lives. They will learn to use hands-on tools such as prayer cards and journals.
What does honest prayer look like? Answered by David Powlison
Honest prayer also feels like a dire need for help, or like loving someone with all your heart, or like being grateful to someone who does you great good, or like a fear of offending someone whose opinion matters very much, or like hoping that someone will come through on what they promised. In prayer, you’ll express the full range of human feeling and desire – directed towards God. Be careful of making prayer pietistic as if it were a “religious” activity or “spiritual” feelings.
Entering our Father’s story: what does it mean? Answered by Paul Miller & Courtney Sneed
When we pray, we enter our Father’s story. As we walk with him and submit to him in obedience, his story for us becomes ours. The more we live in this story, the clearer our vision, the deeper our contentment. We see more acutely the character God wants to shape in us. Our direction becomes less murky. Our calling becomes focused. And the nuances of our sin patterns, we more quickly perceive. As with all good stories, meaning and resolution do not come overnight, but can take years, even decades to be made manifest.
What does this actually look like? Listen to Ashley Bennett's story. It's a great example of what we're talking about, at a nitty-gritty level.
“Last year, I made these prayer cards for everyone in my family after attending a PrayerLife seminar taught by Paul Miller. I have four children, and Canaan is my oldest. Following Paul’s suggestion to focus on character qualities, I wrote on Canaan’s card: 'to have a positive attitude towards work,' and, 'to enjoy working.'
“Over several months God answered my prayers: Canaan started doing things without being asked. He went above and beyond, looking for ways to help, even offering to do things. At the same time, I was homeschooling him in second grade and began to have some concerns about his schoolwork. Canaan was enjoying math but becoming increasingly resistant to reading, spelling, and writing assignments. We were both frustrated. I tried a different curriculum and teaching at a different time of day, but he still slouched, putting his hand on his head. I thought he was struggling with laziness. He’d work through half of an assignment and ask, 'Can I do it later?'
“I plunged in more, attempting to fix the problem. I tried to make language arts fun. I used different motivational rewards and punishments. We talked about what it meant to persevere. I assumed that he just needed to try harder and put forth more effort. Then, one day, as I was going over the prayer card – it hit me that I wasn’t praying over this school issue. As I prayed, I was reminded of how God was working in Canaan’s life. His new positive attitude toward work was not in keeping with the struggles we were having in school. His difficulties were springing out of something different than character issues.
“Paul Miller had suggested that we ask God questions, so I wrote on Canaan’s card, 'Why is this so hard for Canaan?' I prayed about this for three days. A few days later we were working on reading. He kept slouching and resting his head in the palm of his hand. I suddenly realized that he was covering his left eye! I asked him to complete the assignment without covering that eye. As he continued, his left eye became red and irritated. I asked him, 'Do your eyes bother you when you read?' He said, 'When I work for a long time, this eye hurts.' I thought, 'Oh, my goodness, he has a vision problem,' and whisked him off to the optometrist. But the optometrist told me he had 20/20 vision.
“I asked Canaan more questions and observed him carefully, noting other various symptoms. I began to research on the internet. But I knew I couldn’t use the internet to diagnose Canaan. I kept praying. The next weekend we went to a Christmas party, and a lot of older moms were there. I thought, 'I’m going to ask them.' It turned out that two of their children had been diagnosed with a vision problem similar to Canaan’s. Their vision was fine, but their eyes needed to be trained to work together. I took Canaan to a specialist they recommended. Through tests, the doctor showed us how Canaan’s eyes focus on two different places. When Canaan covered one eye at a time, he could read all 100 words before him, but when he used both eyes, he missed 35 words. Since then, Canaan has been doing vision therapy for five days a week, and is greatly improving. I am overwhelmed by God’s tender care for Canaan.
“What was God showing me in this process? I rush too much. I make decisions. I make assumptions about things that I’m not praying for. But while I was thinking of solutions, God was thinking of my son and me. He was patiently waiting for me. Through understanding the larger story of what God was doing for Canaan I learned there was something more to my son’s frustrations with language arts. I had blinders taken off my eyes! God’s hands were all over our lives, giving meaning and clarity to frustrating details. That every little decision I make is worth praying over just blows my mind.
Ashley had eyes to see two stories God was writing: the first was in Canaan, her son; the second was in herself. Through looking at the big picture – how God was answering her prayers for Canaan to enjoy work, she learned that something more was bothering Canaan. Then, because Ashley was tuned into God's story for her, she was able to perceive her sin patterns more clearly: her rushing and assumption-making. By living in God's story for her, Ashley quickly repented, and got to participate in God's tender care for Canaan. Interestingly, using prayer cards (journaling could have worked too) helped Ashley to keep track of the story.
What is the key to effective praying? Answered by David Powlison
Paul Miller’s father, Jack Miller, was my pastor for many years. One of the profoundly simple things I learned from Jack came from his understanding of the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). He said that the first beatitude was not “first” in the sense that you figure it out and move onto the next one. It’s not like first base in baseball, a way station on your way to second, third, and home. Instead, the first beatitude is first in the same way that the foundation of a multi-story building comes first. It always undergirds the whole building. It establishes the shape of the entire structure. The foundation has omnipresent effects. “Poor in spirit” simply means a deep inner sense of need for help from outside yourself. A beggar has no money, food, health, safety, bank account, resume or marketable skills. Someone else must provide and protect. And so it is with us. When I know I need what only God can give, then I pray straight-on, honest prayers.
Is it possible to listen to God? If so, what does this look like? Answered by Bob Allums
This is a sensitive issue, because some teaching on this has been weird. It’s not about hearing audible voices in your head. I talk about praying through hunches. I assume that responding to hunches is the Spirit leading as Romans 8 indicates—where you experience Sonship through prayer. Often these hunches will come in your times of prayer with the Father. As things come into your mind, and real desires come from your heart, you pray them. It is important that you have two witnesses in considering your hunches—always the church and the Word of God. First run your hunch by people you trust and by what the Scriptures teach. That way you can discern if it was the Spirit’s leading or your flesh.
One recent example of this: a woman who attended A Praying Life had a hunch to write her friend who was traveling. She prayed about it, wrote her, and found out that they were staying in the same city that night. God used her hunch to reach out to her friend.