Robert Millet’s recent book Talking with God: Divine Conversations that Transform Daily Life is about the practice of prayer. He is encouraging sincere daily prayer because he believes that it is key to increasing the spirituality, faith, and charity of the saints.
Bro. Millet is proselytizing for “dialogic revelation” in prayer. As Terryl Givens has pointed out, Mormons have a long tradition of approaching prayer as a kind of conversation with God. Prayer, understood in this manner, is not just a matter of reporting our thanks for the day’s good events and requesting comfort, forgiveness, and blessings to make up for the day’s lacks. Certainly that is part of it, but Bro. Millet argues that prayer, properly pursued, should be a transformative event. As such, prayer should an opportunity to request to think what God thinks we should think and to feel what He thinks we should feel. Bro. Millet says:
I have come to realize that such a request of our Heavenly Father is really a request to be born again, renewed in mind and heart, “changed from [our] carnal and fallen state to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters” (Mosiah 27:25). It is more than a cosmetic alteration, for more than behavior modification. It is an inner renovation, a metamorphosis from the inside out.
In choosing to make his book devotional, rather than scholarly, Bro. Millet clearly feels that this message will reach more people and that more people will experiment with the word in prayer as a result. I don’t know that I agree, but I think that the sentiment is in the right place. In any case, this book speaks to the Gospel’s possibilities as a powerful spiritual catalyst. The commonplace notion of prayer, cited off-handedly to push a boring lesson along, is a means to genuinely become more divine. There is a magic in what we often consider mundane. Bro. Millet’s book asks us to look beyond the accepted in our own lives and in the Gospel and to pursue a closer, more refining, and more fulfilling relationship with God.
This idea of prayer and spirituality derives from Bro. Millet’s long interaction with Evangelical belief. Many Protestants believe that God is the engine behind our spiritual growth. This maintains the distance between ourselves and God, because he changes us in ways we cannot. We are the clay, as it were. This raises the question of whether it is compatible with traditional Mormon approaches to the divine which tend to shrink the distance between God and man. Can we be co-eternal worthy inheritors of his power while also being totally dependent on his grace for each incremental step we make toward divinity?
This is a short book, just 149 small pages, divided primarily into 21 brief chapters. It reads like an extended Sunday School lesson on prayer, the book equivalent of an afternoon Education week session. It has the typical look of a Deseret Book production and its language has DB’s typical cadences.
Bro. Millet confesses that he originally intended to write a much different book; one that looked with more depth and breadth into the process and purpose of prayer. However, over the course of writing the book, he edited away most of his material, resulting in a primarily devotional book. As such, it inspires one to approach God in prayer, to seek more sincerity and meaning in prayer, and to use prayer as a means to communicate with and become more like our Father in Heaven. All of these are laudable goals and Bro. Millet persuasively argues their importance. He turns to personal experiences with prayer to demonstrate its efficacy and to modern revelation and scripture to support his arguments. Stories about a wayward child and a brush with death detail moments in his life when prayer has been a powerful tool and comfort. Bro. Millet would like his audience to approach God similarly in prayer and to find power and grace therein. For the right person, this book will help.