What People Miss in Terms of Prayer
“One of the biggest things people miss in prayer is that you need to slow down in your personal life. You have to slow down because it takes time to pray. So if you try to add prayer to a busy system, you just have to clip off some of that busyness. So you have to do less. But one of the things that happens is the Spirit becomes activated, and He brings Jesus into the community.
What does that look like? Jesus comes in with His story of dying and rising. The gospel is the story of His death and resurrection for us, which begins to be reenacted in the community. A praying community draws the whole community and the people in that community into the story of Jesus.”
Paul Miller Explains The Power Train in Scripture
“Think of the powertrain in your car or a boat. Energy goes from the engine into the transactional and out to the wheels. So there’s a transfer of power. Prayer unleashes the Spirit who brings us, Jesus. And out of that comes power. So it’s prayer, Spirit, Jesus, and power.
If you look at Ephesians 3:14-17, it says, ‘For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.’ An easy way to summarize this is ‘already but not yet.’ In the New Testament, you see a pattern of already not yet. So we already have the Spirit, yet our souls get overwhelmed by the flesh.”
Prayer is Not a Spiritual Gift
“Prayer is not just one more activity of the Christian life. That’s why you don’t see prayer listed as a spiritual gift. For example, my wife and I pray together every morning. If you were to hear our prayers, you would say, ‘Paul, she prays better than you.’ And I would say yes. I describe the way she prays as coming into the airport.
When she’s praying, she’s coming in to land the plane. And I have to get to work. And we’ve been praying for 20 minutes, and just as I think the wheels are coming down, she goes around for it. She thinks of something else, and they’re really beautiful prayers. So why is there no gift of praying? The answer is there’s no gift of breathing. And the church has stopped breathing these last 50 years.”
Paul Miller Explains The Prayer Meeting Pyramid
“There is a real skill to leading a prayer meeting so you don’t get stuck. I call it the prayer pyramid. So you have vision at the top. Those are your big prayers. And then you have strategy, and the bottom is your tactical to-do list. You need to be praying at all three levels. So part of my work as a prayer leader is to pray big. You should never pray out of the context in which you are. So we pray for the needs of our people, but we also pray for their whole lives. A tremendous amount of pastoring happens in really well done, committed prayer meetings where people have faith. It just takes time and work to get there.”
The Importance of Love in Corporate Prayer
“The biggest difference between corporate and individual prayer is that corporate prayer requires love. People have put love and prayer in two separate buckets. If you’re with good friends out for dinner, you don’t need to be taught how to have a conversation. You are attentive to one another, so your conversation builds off one another. Within Pietism, which has been the beating heart of Christianity for a couple of hundred years, it tends to be more about me, my life, and my prayer.
But what if the Spirit is not all that interested in my spiritual walk, and He wants me just to love people? I show a video of one of our prayer meetings in our praying church seminar. There’s nothing special about it. But only three people pray in it. They’re paying attention to one another and building on one another’s prayers; It’s not isolated.”
Prayer at The Center of The Church
“We can over-spiritualize the fact that you need money. Of course, you need cash if you’re going to pay your pastor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that should not sit at the center of the church.
What should be at the center of the church is the Spirit of Jesus. If you use Ephesians and the Book of Acts together as a model, the principal way you access the Spirit of Jesus is through prayer. The church began with a ten-day prayer meeting. We know from John that the disciples had an early Pentecost, but He breathed on them. There was a mini infilling of the Spirit. When Jesus said, go to wait, they knew exactly what to do. They prayed because they had the Spirit of Jesus in them, so they had a ten-day prayer meeting. You see that pattern all through Acts. The powertrain of prayer led to the pouring out of the Spirit.”
Paul Miller’s Encouragement For Pastors
“Hopefully, when they read the book, they’ll see that they need to put down the backpack. You’re not the third person of the Trinity. I invite pastors to resign from being the Holy Spirit in their church. My goal is for them to do less and have the Spirit do more. At SeeJesus, we tithe our time to prayer. We have a Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday prayer meeting for 60 minutes in the morning.
Then on Friday, all ministry staff must be quiet before the Lord for two hours. So that’s about four and a half to five hours. I work about 45 hours weekly, but I’m doing less because I know how powerless I am. I know my leadership gifts are lethal when I’m not in step with the Spirit. Every church is a spiritual work, which means capital S Spirit.”
The Spiritual Muscle of Prayer
“At times in the charismatic movement, you can have a disconnection between the Word and the wisdom of the church with the promptings of the Spirit. In my reformed community, it’s an opposite problem. We have ignored the Spirit, which creates its own version of celebrity culture because then you have the celebrity preacher. Every time in Acts there is a sermon, there is a preacher. Every time there is a prayer meeting in Acts, you have the entire community.
We are given a job description in Acts 6 where the apostles say, ‘But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ We have this graphic we use in the Praying Church seminar that depicts a muscular guy on half his body and the other half he is scrawny. That’s the typical evangelical pastor. I’ve asked pastors 45 minutes into a praying church seminar, how much training do you have in ministry of the Word? And they said, ‘hundreds and hundreds of hours.’ So I asked how much training they have in the Ministry of Prayer. And a guy from the back said, ‘about 45 minutes.”
Paul Miller Explains Disordered Love
“My dad was working in our ministry that our church in Philadelphia had in Uganda. And God was blessing it. This was a prayer-saturated church, and neat things were going on.
There was much genuine work of the Spirit, but my dad’s love had become disordered, which often happens in ministry. It was so exciting, and Mom was feeling neglected, so she wrote a letter to Dad. She didn’t use Augustine’s phrase, disordered love, but I love his phrase.
I like to call it soft idolatry. It’s not like worshiping Baal, but you’re over-loving your work. The only way you can tell is in close relationships because when you create a ministry idol, everything you do has to be contributed to that. So you begin to use people. Mom was feeling used and neglected by Dad, and she wrote to him about it, and he kind of ignored her, but she was praying for him. When the Spirit comes, he brings fire. Jesus gets a dove. The rest of us get fire. He gets a dove because God has to create a landing zone for Jesus to come in.
Mom’s prayers for Dad brought fire. Unfortunately, he had a heart attack about three months later, and she only connected the dots for me on some of this in the last two or three years.
My dad has been with the Lord for about 25 years, and we had a break from the church we were working with in Uganda. Dad had a heart attack, and out of that, Dad started a prayer meeting. I’m in the grandchild prayer meeting of that prayer meeting. It was just incredible. So you can see the pattern of dying. The disordered love of Dad led to Mom praying the Spirit into Jesus’ life. God brought fire. God worked where Mom couldn’t. That’s why I pray.”
About Paul Miller
Paul E. Miller (MDiv, Biblical Seminary) is executive director of seeJesus, a global discipling mission that mentors through seminars, cohorts, and interactive Bible studies. He is the bestselling author of A Praying Life and J-Curve. Paul and his wife, Jill, live in the Philadelphia area and have six children and fifteen grandchildren. Listen to the Seeing Jesus with Paul Miller podcast or learn more at seeJesus.net
For more inContext interviews, click here.