"I never started out to write a book on prayer,” writes Paul Miller in the introduction to A Praying Life. As we reflect on the ministry of A Praying Life over the years, we wanted to share the prayer story behind the book, and how it continues to unfold.
“I started doing seminars on prayer in 1999,” says Paul, “and the response was strong. So by 2004, the board and I had set a goal for me to write a book on prayer. At the same time, though, we were in the midst of launching this big project to grow a network of volunteer trainers with the Person of Jesus (POJ). After 16-17 years of struggling to get POJ out, it felt like we were finally getting some traction.”
“Things came to a head at a board meeting in early 2007. A couple of members of the board pressed me on the book, and we got into a conversation about how I was using my time. They challenged me to invest time in the book instead of what I was doing to get the trainer network started. I’ve always had a discipler’s heart, and it was hard to set the training network aside. But I’d labored to create a good board and knew I needed to listen.”
The board’s guidance—and Paul’s willingness to listen—proved critical. When it was released in 2009, A Praying Life struck a chord with readers and has been the leading edge of our ministry in the 12+ years since.
Over years of leading seminars, A Praying Life Director Bob Allums began to notice a trend. “We’d lead a seminar and everyone would get excited,” shares Bob, “but three weeks later, they were back to business as usual. We realized that, while we were helping individual Christians pray, we were barely scratching the surface when it came to cultivating a praying community within the church. And the community is what sustains the individual praying Christian over the long haul!”
While we were helping individual Christians pray, we were barely scratching the surface when it came to cultivating a praying community within the church.
To help pastors develop praying churches, Paul and Bob created A Praying Life Pastors’ Conferences. But they soon realized the pastors needed not just a new paradigm, but ongoing coaching and support. “It’s like a new fitness routine,” says Jon Hori, West Coast and East Asia Director. “Everyone is pumped when it is first introduced, but the hard part is working it into your life. That’s where having buddies at the gym helps!” Jon helped create our A Praying Life Pastors’ Cohorts, where a group of 8 pastors meet together on Zoom with a trainer for 10 weeks to learn about prayer and to pray.
The Pastors’ Cohorts quickly took off. But one day as Bob was praying about the cohorts, he sensed a call to open cohorts for laypeople too. “We started with men’s and women’s cohorts, and then one session we had a few extra men and a few extra women, so we offered to run a co-ed cohort. After the first 10 minutes of the first meeting, we knew that it was a surprise hit!”
“A Praying Life started out as a seminar and a bestselling book on approaching everyone’s struggle in prayer,” says Bob. “It has now moved from a teaching ministry on prayer to a facilitator of genuine prayer communities throughout the world, through our A Praying Life cohorts.”
Paul is currently writing a follow-up to A Praying Life called A Praying Church. “I did not time this book to coincide with the growing chaos in our culture,” Paul says, “but I believe it is timely. Pastors in particular are on the front lines of what is an increasingly discouraged and dispirited world. I pray that this book would help pastors and congregations to become beacons of hope in a dying world.”
I pray that this book would help pastors and congregations to become beacons of hope in a dying world.
If you are one of the readers, seminar attendees, or cohort participants who have learned to “do life through prayer” through A Praying Life, we’re delighted that these tools have helped you. Please join us in praying that this prayer story would continue and the new book would launch many praying communities.