A book that I have so appreciated over the last 18 months or so is Paul Miller’s A Praying Life.  It’s the book on prayer that I wish had existed years and years ago…the book on prayer that I always thought “Am I the only one who ever ______” (fill in the blank about almost any thought/feeling/struggle about prayer).

Part of the book contains Miller’s thoughts, insights, and reflections on prayer, and part of it expounds on how his journey with God (and the first portion of the book) changed how He prayed for people.  While I haven’t adopted the method he uses entirely, it is something I had found I was largely already doing on my own – and it challenged and renewed my own commitment to be a faithful pray-er for the people God’s put in my life, both those I know and interact with in my daily life, as well as those He’s brought across my path thanks to the blogging community.

There is so much about Miller’s book that is worth addressing, but really it is one of those books worth getting and reading and rereading yourself because it is so hard to mention any portion of it without missing something significant and worth pondering.

But one thing that struck me was Miller’s demonstration of how Psalm 23 would read if we don’t have the Good Shepherd.

Psalm 23 (NIV)

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,

3He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Applying how much we miss out on when we don’t live life in communion with the Shepherd, we’re left with the following sober – and self-focused – results:

My.  I shall be in want.  Me.  Me.  My soul.  Me.  I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  I fear.  Me.  Me in the presence of my enemies.  My head.  My cup.  Me.  All the days of my life.  I.

As Miller concludes,

We are left obsessing over our wants in the valley of the shadow of death, paralyzed by fear in the presence of our enemies.  No wonder so many are so cynical.  With the Good Shepherd gone, we are alone in a world of evil.

But God doesn’t force Himself on us, and He gives us a choice of how we want to live and how closely in communion we want to be with Him.  We choose where our focus is going to be.

Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd.

I found the marked up read through of Psalm 23 a convicting depiction of the choice I have daily to walk through each valley, choosing to focus – or not, on the fact that I’m not alone but have the Good Shepherd by my side.

It really is a book well worth a read (or twelve!) and isn’t one that I’d say is particularly conducive to listening to because there will be so many parts you are likely to want to mark and return to.  I’ve shared the book with most of my friends, then my co-workers, then my key ministry partners at work, and more than any other book it’s been one I have had people mention appreciating and returning to again and again.

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