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My book notes: Prayer-Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey

Being from the first class of baby boomers, I find this a hard topic to talk about. I was born and raised in the church, but I've never felt satisfied with my prayer life. I know that it's my point of contact with God, but I ignore prayer so easily.

I could blame it on my childhood. In the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) that I belonged to and grew up in, it was always the pastor who prayed. That was a given. There were generally two exceptions, at meal times when you prayed 'Come Lord Jesus . . . ' and then at bed time when you prayed 'Now I lay me down to sleep . . . "

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Then you would also pray the Lord's Prayer on Sunday and then listen to the pastor pray. Extemporaneous praying was unheard of, at least, in my circles in the sixties.

As I got older, the biblical admonition to pray got clearer for me. However, it was something where I felt intimidated listening to the prayers of others who seemed so much more spiritual than me and who seemingly new more about approaching the Almighty God than me.

That changed gradually with the birth of our kids who added their own requests tacked onto their 'Now I lay me down to sleep . . .' prayer. And, then my hesitation got a big shove when I became an in-prison volunteer for Prison Fellowship. Individual guys wanted you to pray with them and I did.

But, today, I still feel under satisfied with my prayer life. That's why my friend Ken and I are reading Philip Yancey's new book "Prayer--Does It Make Any Difference."

We stay in touch over the phone, have lunch together and e-mail back and forth during the day. We both want a closer relationship with God and we know that prayer is the conduit to God and to getting to know him the way we want.

I hope to post some regular notes from my reading of the book. Hopefully, Ken, a non-blogger, will comment and add his perspective.

Here's my notes on chapter one:

After reading this, I want to read more. Yancey establishes his credibility with me by being transparent. He's stone cold honest about his prayer life. He feels it leaves much to be desired and that he has a lot to learn about communicating with God.

He writes like a guy sitting next to you in a Starbuck's who honestly shares his experiences filled with some struggle about this topic.

On page 14, he writes about how he surveyed ordinary people about prayer. He would ask: "Is prayer important to you?" Answer would be, yes. People would say they pray everyday for maybe five minutes, maybe seven.

And, then the big enchilada question: "Do you find prayer satisfying?" Response: "Not really." Then, Yancey would ask, "Do you sense the presence of God when you pray?" Response: Occasionally, not often. Many saw prayer as a burden and not a pleasure.

In his research, Yancey said he saw a gap between prayer in theory and prayer in practice.

Factors that may contribute to diluting our prayer lives, he wrote, would include sicence and technology, which has taken our focus away from God and his provision. He also cites prosperity and time pressures as contributors to the lessening of importance.

Another complicating factor of prayer is the feedback from God (page 16). "Praying to an invisible God does not bring forth the same feedback you would get from a counselor or from friends who at least nod their heads in sympathy. Is anyone really listening?

"As Ernestine, the nasal-voiced telephone operator played by comedienne Lily Tomlin, used to ask, "Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?"

Yancey wrote the book as a pilgrim, he said, an not an expert. And, he concludes the first chapter by stating, "If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer."