Pray Big: Paul Miller
Hope in a discouraging world: It's hard to come by. But bestselling author Paul Miller knows one habit –prayer—can catapult life beyond imagination. Don't settle for a powerless faith. Find out how to pray big.
It's one thing to learn to be dependent individually, but when you begin to learn to pray together and think of the family; when a family can begin to pray together, or the parts of the family—when I can close a conversation off with one of my kids, “Hey, can we just pray together about this?” Or where you'd turn conversations into short prayer times, where prayer begins to seep into all the structures and the fabric of how you do life as a family together, that's when the Spirit begins to work in amazing ways. -- Paul Miller
About the Guest
- Connect with Paul Miller at seejesus.net or on Instagram @seeingjesus
- Get Paul's book, A Praying Church
- Take a prayer course by Paul Miller
- Check out more episodes from Paul Miller
- Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
- See resources from our past podcasts.
- Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!
- Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
- Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network
Hope in a dark world: It’s hard to come by. But author Paul Miller knows one habit –prayer—can catapult life beyond imagination. Find out how to pray big.
Pray Big: Paul Miller
Hope in a discouraging world: It’s hard to come by. But bestselling author Paul Miller knows one habit –prayer—can catapult life beyond imagination. Don’t settle for a powerless faith. Find out how to pray big.
It’s one thing to learn to be dependent individually, but when you begin to learn to pray together and think of the family; when a family can begin to pray together, or the parts of the family—when I can close a conversation off with one of my kids, “Hey, can we just pray together about this?” Or where you’d turn conversations into short prayer times, where prayer begins to seep into all the structures and the fabric of how you do life as a family together, that’s when the Spirit begins to work in amazing ways. — Paul Miller
Show Notes and Resources
Connect with Paul Miller at seejesus.net or on Instagram @seeingjesus
Get Paul’s book, A Praying Church
Take a prayer course by Paul Miller
Check out more episodes from Paul Miller
Find resources from this podcast at shop.familylife.com.
See resources from our past podcasts.
Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife’s app!
Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Check out all the FamilyLife podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network
Pray Big: Paul Miller
Ann: Hey, before we dive into today’s episode, we want to invite you to an exclusive Art of Marriage® preview event on November 1st.
Dave: Yes, you heard that right. FamilyLife® is releasing an all-new version of our flagship marriage study, The Art of Marriage. You’ll get previews of the sessions, exclusive marriage teachings, and [you’ll] hear from us as well as other teachers. You can sign up in the show notes or on FamilyLife.com/ComingSoon.
Ann: We hope you’ll join us.
Paul: How did we become prayerless as a church over the last 50 years?
Dave: There’s a great question.
Paul: I think it is just our self-sufficiency. Money does what prayer does, but you are in control, and it does it faster, and you don’t need God’s permission.
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!
You are a prayer warrior.
Ann: Why do you say that?
Dave: Nobody prays like you.
Ann: Oh, I don’t feel like that at all.
Dave: You pray in the morning; you pray at our bed every night before we go to sleep. You walk up to strangers in airports and lay your hand on their shoulder and say, “Can I pray for you?” I’m not kidding.
Paul: That’s great.
Dave: It is awesome. I’m intimidated, in a good way.
Ann: Oh, you’ve never said that.
Dave: I feel like I’m walking around with Jesus. You’re just such a—I love it. I love it.
Ann: It’s because I’m so desperate. I feel so broken; I can’t do anything in and of myself, and I need Jesus for it. But I also think it started when our kids were little, and I felt like, “I can’t do this.” So, I would be praying, as Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.” I’d think, “Oh, that’s why. When you’re desperate, you begin praying without ceasing.”
Dave: Yes, you do. You really do, and it inspires me to do the same thing. I think we have another prayer warrior in the studio today.
Ann: I do, too.
Dave: Paul Miller is back. The book we’re going to talk about today is A Praying Church.
Ann: It’s so good.
Dave: Oh, it’s awesome, and it isn’t just about church. It’s about prayer, husbands, dads, moms, and wives.
Dave: But Paul, you are a prayer warrior. Would you agree?
Paul: I would say, like Ann was saying, it’s because you’re aware of your weakness.
Paul: It’s “I can’t do life on my own,” which is Jesus of Nazareth. You can actually put the two parts of Jesus’ interior life together. On the interior, you have the Gospel of John, where He continually says, “I can’t do anything without my Father.” And then, what that looks like on the outside is the Gospel of Luke, which is His life of prayer.
Dave: Yes, even the fact that before He picked His disciples, he spent the night.
Dave: We read that and think, “He prayed all night? How can you do that?”
Dave: It sounds like you do that.
Paul: No, I don’t pray all night, but if I ate too much, and I’m up in the middle of the night—[laughter]—it’s not that. It’s flesh making space for the Spirit to work.
Dave: Your subtitle—I mentioned it last time— is Becoming a People of Hope in a Discouraging World. You mentioned at the end of our last episode how important prayer is in the world we’re living in right now. Wealth, discouragement—
Dave: Chaos. Again, it’s always been that way. It isn’t like it’s something new, but it feels heightened in our day; maybe because [with] the internet, everything’s right in front of us. News across the world, the second it happens we hear about it. We’ve grown up in decades before where it was hours or maybe days before we heard things. A shooting in a school somewhere now is right in front of us, so it feels like the world is spinning out of control.
You wrote a book that says, “Okay, if the world is discouraging, how can we be people of hope?” How does prayer fit in that?
Paul: Well, maybe just go back a step and say, “How did we become prayerless as a church over the last fifty years?”
Dave: There’s a great question.
Paul: I think it is just our self-sufficiency and our relative wealth. Money does what prayer does, but you are in control, and it does it faster, and you don’t need God’s permission. All of that leads to us just relying on management, and just the busyness, the noise of our culture. You take almost every aspect of American culture, and it just kills the spirit of prayer.
Ann: I remember watching an interview with a woman who was from the Middle East, became a follower of Jesus, was persecuted over there, almost killed. Her dream was to come to the United States to live, to get away from the persecution, and after she had been here a year, she said to her husband, “I need to move back.” He said, “Why would you say that?” She said, “Because I’m falling asleep here. The American church has fallen asleep.”
Ann: That’s exactly, I think, what you’re just saying; our self-sufficiency.
Paul: It’s one thing to learn to be dependent individually, but when you begin to learn to pray together and think of the family; when a family can begin to pray together, or the parts of the family—when I can close a conversation off with one of my kids, “Hey, can we just pray together about this?” Or where you’d turn conversations into short prayer times, where prayer begins to seep into all the structures and the fabric of how you do life as a family together, that’s when the Spirit begins to work in amazing ways.
Ann: As you say that, I would encourage listeners: I remember saying to our kids, “Let’s pray,” when they were in high school or middle school, and they give me the groan, like “Uggggghhhh.” I would become discouraged, and then I would think, “Should I not pray? Do they think I’m dumb?”
Ann: So, I would encourage you as a listener, if you’re saying to your family, “Let’s pray,” pray anyway. And if your kids are going through difficult times, we want to rescue them out of their difficulties, and yet when our kids are in difficulty, they would come to me and say, “Mom, will you pray for me?” So, I don’t think we should be fearful when they’re going through difficulty, because that generally drives us to our knees.
Paul: Yes. You really have to have the right goals as a family. Paul the Apostle has two metrics for the church. They are all over his writing, and they are faith and love. They are real metrics for Paul. He measures them; he talks about them; he prays for them. They’re the only things I want with our kids.
I don’t care what school they get into; I don’t care how much money they make. All those things as a parent have to die. You need the fire of Jesus to clean that out, you know what I mean? Because none of that lasts. They’ll just end up being mean and fighting one another, and they’ll re-enact Cain and Abel. [Laughter]
Dave: I wasn’t sure what you said about—I’ve seen it in our family, the dependence.
Dave: We become independent. Again, there’s nothing wrong with wealth and having nice things. Living in this country is great.
Paul: Yes, yes, yes.
Dave: But think about this—
Ann: We were going to Africa on a mission trip, four of us, with our family. Our other kids were in college. I think we had to raise $15,000.
Dave: No, I know exactly what it was.
Ann: Oh, you do? What was it? Oh, that’s right.
Dave: It was $3000 times four of us, so Ann and I and our two middle-school [boys]. I’ll never forget, Paul. I went into their room the night before I was going to preach the next morning. We had to have the money turned in on Monday, and this is Saturday night. I got on my knees at their bed, and I said, “Guess what, guys? I have to be honest. We’re not going to Africa. We don’t have the money. We need $12,000, and we have zero.”
Ann: I think we had some.
Dave: I think we had a couple hundred. I’ll never forget, I preached that next morning at church, and Carl Crimmins came up. I’ll never forget his name. He walks up and says, “Hey, man. How’s it going raising money for the Africa trip?” I say, “Well, have to be honest with you, Carl. I told my sons last night we’re probably not going.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “You know we need 12 grand.”
He said, “Oh, you’re going. Open your mail.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “You sent me the letter. I sent you a check.” I said, “Well, thanks, Bud, but we need 12 grand.” He said, “You’re going.” Carl gave us $12,000!
Paul: That’s amazing.
Dave: Our boys probably will never forget that moment.
Paul: Yes, that’s great.
Dave: Because God answered. You talk about it in your book: big prayers; pray big.
Paul: Yes. Let me flip that, though, and think of “pray small.” Sometimes when your faith is weary, it’s just good to do these sweet, little prayers. I was out to breakfast with one of my sons and their family and their three little kids. Seth handed me—I think we had gotten them little toys, like Slinkys. It got tangled in one minute, and Andrew is pretty good. I said, “Andrew, here, can you untangle this?”
Andrew couldn’t untangle it, so I said, “Seth, let’s pray.” So, I prayed that we could untangle the Slinky. This prayer did not have much faith in it, because I had 50 years of failure. [Laughter] The thought came to me out of the blue, “Just grab a good part of the Slinky and keep turning it.” I did it, and I couldn’t even look down I was so fearful, because you just never untangle Slinkys. And it untangled. I handed it to Seth. It was like, “Oh, wow! God hears me!”
Ann: I love that, that God cares about the little things.
Ann: Because He loves us, the things that we care about, He cares about.
Dave: You know what? Why not ask? Whether it’s a little thing, or as you write in the book, a big thing. What do you mean by “pray big?”
Paul: Yes. If that same power that raised Jesus from the dead—which is Spiritual power, which is the capital S—if God continually wants to reenact the resurrection in our lives, then you can pray in context of the power. It’s kind of like dumping a massive engine into a little go-cart. Build a bigger car. [Laughter] Pray big, you know what I mean?
Paul: Oddly enough, I do my biggest praying big when I’m at my weakest, because why not? It’s like your back is to the wall, your weakness, your inability, and whatever it is. It opens the door to whatever God might do. Your imagination—if you develop a life of prayer, your imagination grows. Your sense of expectation grows. You begin to think, “Why not?” and then you begin to act big.
So, it’s really believing that’s behind it. The problem with our prayerless, if I had to say one big word, is unbelief.
Ann: It makes me think of Matthew 21 when “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.’” Most of us read that and think, “What does that mean, Paul?”
Paul: What I love to do with that text in our prayer seminars is, I love to read those texts and say, “Okay, come on, honestly, what is your reaction to that?” I’m trying to pull out cynicism.
Paul: I will say, “Now, what does a child—if you read that to a child—from a Christian home, a five- or six-year-old child, what will they say? They will not be cynical. They will simply say, ‘Ask’.” Obviously, there are footnotes to it, but we tend to make the footnotes big, broad headlines, and the headline is, “Ask, and He’ll Do Beyond.”
Can I tell a quick story on this? I think what keeps people from praying is, they don’t realize the story complexion to how God answers. The Gospel is a story, and the Spirit is crafting stories in our lives. It actually goes back to Kim, but Kim, who has autism, would wake up at four a.m. and pace upstairs. She would get out of bed and flip on the hallway light, and run back to bed, stay in bed for five minutes, run to the hallway, flip off the light. This would just cycle.
I could just tune it out, you know what I mean? I’m a guy! You just flip it off, head under your pillow, you’re good. Jill would tell Kim to get back in bed. It was a floor away, and a couple doors, so she had to tell pretty loudly, so she’d yell at Kim. It was kind of like the Flintstones where you—[Laughter]
Then when we would have devotions, Jill would go down on the first floor. I would have my devotions on the second floor. This was years ago before we were praying together. Kim would start pacing. Jill would hear her, and she would yell at me to yell at Kim. It wasn’t really like a really spiritual time.
Dave: Sounds like a great devotion.
Ann: This was during your prayer time?
Paul: Yes, really; this was during our prayer time. I do like to point out that I was more of the assistant yeller, but—[Laughter]—one morning, I said, “You know what? I should go up and pray with Kim,” for no other reason than I was halfway through writing a book on prayer. [Laughter] So anyway, I go up and pray with Kim. I just put my hands on her, nothing deeply spiritual. I just prayed that God would quiet her heart, because I could just feel her body kind of shaking underneath the covers.
Something happened, not in Kim, but in me, and I didn’t hear anything. The prayer was all of ten seconds, and then I went downstairs. I knew something at the end of that prayer that I hadn’t known when I started the prayer. It was that I had underestimated Kim’s ability to grow spiritually and to own her own behavior. I recognized the Spirit’s fire. I knew it immediately. I was convicted by it. I said, “You know, I have to put time,” and this thought grew.
So, I would go up about once a week and pray with Kim, and then in March of the next year—the middle of March, I could tell you the day—her pacing stopped.
Paul: I started having devotions with Kim, and we would read the Bible together, and then she would pray on her speech computer, and I would do the dishes. I kept thinking, “You know, I really should sit down with her while she’s praying and honor her praying, and not just do devotions.” I sat down, and her prayers just blossomed. Thanksgiving poured out.
Then I thought, “I’m going to stop teaching. I’m going to stop writing books. I’m going to stop all my outward—all my new material writing, because I need to train Kim.” So, I told that to our church. I was the center of the Sunday School program. I said, “I’m dropping out. We’re just dumping her in Sunday School, and she’s not learning.” They found an empty room next to the furnace room in the basement, and I and another kid we picked up—I began to teach them.
The last little thing: my wife, then, after I’d been doing this for about a year and a half, said, “You know, I think I could take your curriculum, your Bible studies, and rewrite them for adults with intellectual disabilities.” So, she did that.
Dave: We just saw them.
Paul: We created a Bethesda Ministry. Hundreds and hundreds of kids now with intellectual disabilities across America are doing these Bethesda studies. So, prayer is like a little seed that goes in the ground, and God delights in it, and then He does something beyond all that we can ask or imagine. It was pray small, and God does big and beyond all that we can ask or imagine.
Dave: Talking to you the last three sessions about this, I just want to say to a husband, a wife, a mom, or a dad who’s saying, “I don’t know what to do”: pray. “I’m losing my marriage. I’m losing my feelings for my husband.” Pray. “My son walked away, my daughter—” Again, Paul, we don’t do that.
Paul: I know.
Dave: And all the other things we do are good—get to a marriage conference, get to church, get to a therapist. Those are all wonderful. And if we pray, we pray one day and we quit, or two days, or three days. No. Be persistent. You said, “Patience, persistence, and watch.”
Dave: We’re talking about this, and we’re encouraging husbands and moms and dads to pray. Let’s pray. Paul, you start it. I’ll end it.
Paul: Father, I pray that You would send Your Spirit into the families across America, and to the husbands and the wives and all the messed up, broken relationships that so many listeners are dealing with. I pray that You would send a spirit of prayer, which is the praying Spirit of Jesus. I pray that once again, the church would become a praying temple, a house of prayer. We are the Body of Christ. Would we become the praying Body? And people would see You do beyond all that we can ask or even imagine.
Ann: And Lord, I pray for the listeners that are just struggling. They’re wondering, “Does this even work?” Father, I pray that You would show them that You love them, that You hear them, that You see them, and that You’re more concerned about their kids and their welfare or their marriages. Lord, You care more about that, so Father I pray for protection over these families from the enemy, from the culture.
I pray that You would put a hedge around their homes and their hearts, Father; that we would cling to You, that we would love You. And Lord, for those that feel like, “I don’t have time to pray,” You’re always here. We think all the time, so may our thoughts become prayers, our worries become prayers, that then You would guard our hearts and minds in You, Jesus. As You say, “If you’re anxious, come to Me.” So, Lord, I pray blessing upon these families.
Dave: And Lord, we’ve talked about praying small and praying big. I know often I hesitate because I have little faith; not big faith, but little faith. And yet You say all we need is faith of a mustard seed, tiny faith. I know there’s a husband that’s like me, or a wife that just doesn’t know. I pray You’d give them mustard seed faith to pray right now and say, “God, heal my marriage, and start with me.”
Lord, it’s such a great reminder that Paul gave us today, and in his book, that when we pray, the Spirit of God is released, and Jesus is magnified in power. The power of God is made known in us and through us, and we’re asking for the power of God to change us and change our marriages and change our families and change this nation. And it starts with us. So, “God, change me” so that we can have an impact right where you’ve put us in our neighborhood and that can impact the world.
We ask You for a revival that starts in the fire in my own heart, that You do as a result of us asking You to do it. We love You, and we pray in Your Son’s Name, Jesus. Amen.
Dave: So, what are your thoughts after talking to Paul Miller?
Ann: I’m so inspired! Are you?
Dave: Yes, that’s what I was going to say. I didn’t know what you were thinking. Literally, God was speaking to me through him to inspire me to be a praying husband. I’m not saying we don’t pray.
Ann: Yes, we do pray.
Dave: But I’m often sort of apathetic, letting you lead, and you are a prayer warrior, and I’m following. I’m thinking, “Quit that!” I’m going to step up. That’s what I felt like.
Ann: I think in our family, as our kids were growing up, I would feel like everybody’s rolling their eyes when I would say, “Let’s pray.” And it just reminded me, you can never pray enough. Pray without ceasing. Pray all day about everything.
Dave: We said it in the interview, but if you want to see God change your marriage, pray.
Dave: If you want to see God change you, pray.
I’m not saying don’t act on it as well, but it was just a reminder [that] God works through prayer. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get everything you want, but if you want a different life, there are a lot of things you can do, and they’re all important, but the most important thing you can do, I think, is get on your knees today and ask God. Talk to God about it and, like he said, be patient, be persistent, and then watch.
Ann: I know so many of you do pray. I have an ask for you that are listening, and for your friends. Will you pray for FamilyLife? Become our partners in prayer, because we want to change the world.
Dave: Yes. Pray that God would use FamilyLife and FamilyLife Today to literally lead people to Jesus. That’s what it’s all about, and we need you to be partners with us in asking God to do that, because He will.
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Paul Miller on FamilyLife Today. I’d love that, too, what Ann was talking about. Would you partner with us in prayer so that people will come to know Jesus? As we’ve heard, prayer ignites the power of God Himself, so your prayers don’t go unheard by our King. There is so much spiritual treasure to be found when you mine it in prayer. I loved our time today. I loved hearing from Dave and Ann Wilson and Paul Miller himself.
He’s written a book called A Praying Church: Becoming a People of Hope in a Discouraging World. We’re living in a discouraging world, so this book is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. You can partner in prayer, and partner with us financially as well. We want to give you a copy of Paul’s book when you do.
How does that happen? Well, you can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
How do you navigate tough times and find hope in the midst of life’s trials? It’s a common question and a common experience amongst Christians. Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be in the studio with Eric and Erikah Rivera to talk about just that. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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