A second question and answer with Paul Miller. (Read the first.)
Your book, A Praying Life, talks about cynicism in prayer. How would you describe the problem of cynicism, and what is your advice to those who are struggling with it?
Cynicism is my biggest struggle in prayer. It is a quiet, cold rationalism that dulls the soul and just kills your walk with God. It is hard to even identify or name our cynicism because it just feels like being realistic. It says things like, “What good does it [prayer] do?” or “It [the answer to prayer] would have happened anyway.”
I think we are particularly susceptible to cynicism in the Reformed world because we are an intellectual world. We are rightly concerned about our ideas being correct, but we don’t always pay attention to our heart being correct.
I think without a doubt that the principal cure for cynicism is to become a little child and learn to cry out for help—to realize that I am a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son.
One other cure for cynicism is purity of life. Any time there is a miss between how we present ourselves as Christians and what we are really like when no one is watching, that opens up a door for cynicism. So a lifestyle of repentance and confession goes a long way to cure cynicism.