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I have benefited wonderfully from Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life. In a word, it is outstanding. The most engaging and eye-opening chapter in the book was chapter nine on cynicism. Frankly, I did not anticipate this section because I’ve never connected cynicism to a praying life.
As I was reading this chapter, I was convicted, stunned, amazed, and helped, all rolled up into one interactive emotion. It was so beneficial that I could not stop highlighting many of the quotes that leaped off the page. I’ve listed a few of them so you can enjoy some of Paul’s golden nuggets of truth.
The opposite of a childlike spirit is a cynical spirit. Cynicism is, increasingly, the dominant spirit of our age. Personally, it is my greatest struggle in prayer. If I get an answer to prayer, sometimes I’ll think, It would have happened anyway. Other times I’ll try to pray but wonder if it makes any difference.
Satan’s first recorded words are cynical.
To be cynical is to be distant. While offering a false intimacy of being in the know, cynicism actually destroys intimacy. It leads to a creeping bitterness that can deaden and even destroy the spirit.
Cynicism begins with the wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaged, loving, and hoping.
Cynicism is a perverse version of being in the world, but not of the world.
Cynicism protects you from crushing disappointment, but it paralyzes you from doing anything.
Cynicism and defeated weariness have this in common: they both question the active goodness of God on our behalf. Left unchallenged, their low-level doubt opens the door for bigger doubt.
A praying life is just the opposite. It engages evil. It doesn’t take no for an answer. The psalmist was in God’s face, hoping, dreaming, asking. Prayer is feisty. Cynicism, on the other hand, merely critiques. It is passive, cocooning itself from the passions of the great cosmic battle we are engaged. It is without hope.
The Christian Cynic has lost sight of Calvary. The cross of Christ, for the cynic, is more of a historical event than a riveting reality. Life’s distractions mute the gospel’s voice. The Christian Cynic listens too much to whatever current noise is going on in life, which distracts from the old news about the Father’s victory on Adam’s Tree.
The opposite of cynicism is not optimism. The power of a positive mental attitude is a man-centered, non-sustaining way to feel better about yourself. The cynic needs something unbeatable, something more profound. Your optimism, which we call hope, must be grounded in the gospel. The Father’s cure for the cynic is always the gospel.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).