Meanwhile, I struggle to "pray continually," breathing out prayers while I'm going about my day--perhaps in part because these prayers end up feeling shallow, repetitive, simplistic. But I'm reading Paul Miller's wonderful book A Praying Life, and the chapter "Crying 'Abba'--Continuously" gave me a whole different perspective. Suddenly I wondered: Could the preferences I've just described be, in their essence, pride?
Refusing to acknowledge my poverty of spirit, I believe I have much to bring to the table when it comes to prayer. I know how to pray. I'm not just going to utter halfhearted, "Lord, please bless-and-be-with" prayers. If I can't bring all my assets to prayer, can't have a big chunk of set-aside time to wax eloquent, then I won't come at all. Forget it.
"You don't need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit." (65)Perhaps my problem is not so much lack of diligence as it is lack of humility and desperation. I *know*, in my head at least, that I am helpless and hopeless apart from Christ, needy and dependent. But I apparently haven't seen the truth that I am so needy that my need supercedes the importance of thoughtful prayer. What I need, what I lack, is far more significant than what I can do, what I bring. And so my poverty in spirit should trump my desire to pray thoughtfully, every time. God doesn't need my gospel-centered or Scripture-saturated prayers; I need God and His gospel and His Word.
Miller speaks of a revelation in the life of his family:
"We didn't need to get more organized. We didn't need more money. We needed mercy. That mindset creates a praying heart. A praying life is not simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can't even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus." (68)O, for this kind of desperation and awareness of need--and O, for awareness of how the Savior has provided for my every need, if I will only call out to Him. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.