Have you ever prayed to get a parking spot before? Some would say, “Don’t do that. You devalue prayer when you pray for something so trivial.” Paul Miller, author of A Praying Life, has a bone to pick with this critique. He says that this attitude overspiritualizes prayer. “Wait,” you might be thinking, “is that even possible?” Miller thinks so and gives us the following analogy,
Imagine a husband who really loves his wife. He is attentive to her needs. He listens to her heart. He is her best earthly gift. How would she react if he said to her, “Don’t ask me for anything. I’m your best gift…” [Insert audience laughter] The husband’s love for his wife is not disengaged from responding thoughtfully and generously to her requests. If we separate our mundane needs (doing) from God’s best gift, his loving presence (being), then we are overspiritualizing prayer.
Earlier, Miller notes that overspiritualizing prayer depersonalizes us:
When Jesus prays at Gethsemane “take this cup from me,” his is being real; Christians rush to “not my will, but yours be done” without first expressing their hearts (Luke 22:42, NIV). They submit so quickly that they disappear…When we stop being ourselves with God, we are no longer in real conversation with God.