Doug Miller, the ultimate praying man

Published 10:12 pm Friday, November 10, 2017

We need to tell you this Saturday morning about Doug Miller, a big “mountain-of-a-man” from West Virginia. We talked here about Doug almost exactly a year ago when the amazin’ blonde and I spent a frosty week in the little town of Foster sharing the Gospel with a great group of “mountaineers.” Doug was very sick at that time — suffering with heart trouble and kidney cancer — but he made every night of the Gospel meeting. He lived that week and the week of our return trip in April as if it would be his last.

We all enjoyed the best cooking I’m guessing anybody up in those mountains has ever tasted. Karen Miller was the cook, and Doug thoroughly enjoyed that cooking for the most part of his 72 years. Some called him “Bear,” but, to my knowledge, nobody ever called him skinny.

The menu each day was whatever you wanted it to be, just put in your order— biscuits and gravy, pancakes and whatever else you wanted. I thought I was at grandma’s house again there on Truitt Avenue. Karen Miller’s cooking is that good.

We would sit down each morning at breakfast, and sometimes Doug would ask me to say the blessing, and I was always honored to do that. But if he felt up to it that morning, he would say it. He would just start talking to the Lord right out of the blue. We’d all get to our seats at a little table looking out to the colossal mount beside the house. Then, as the aroma of the early-morning’s blessings filled the room, brother Doug’s booming voice would fill the room with a “sweet-smelling savory,” too. He would just start talking to the Lord, just as we’re talking right here, but better.

I’ve tried to remember his prayers, because I want to be able to pray that way. Maybe it’s not the words he says but how he says them when he starts that conversation with the Lord.

When most of us pray, we pray mainly from our head, I think. We pray fast so the food won’t get cold. Doug prayed fervently, for he was so thankful for the food, for the cook he married a long time ago, for the friends that had come to share a week at their table and for hundreds of other blessings that seemed to stream through the window with the morning sun.

No, Doug Miller didn’t pray the way we pray. He prayed from way down in the recesses of his heart, way down in those backroads — as our old, rustic Georgia friend Doocy says — down where the emotions flow freely and you don’t have to worry so much about how it sounds, because you know the Lord’s Spirit will hand-deliver your needs and thanksgiving right to the throne of God. That’s how fervently this mountainous man prayed.

As we would sit down and reach for a napkin, he would start his morning talk with the Lord. He would go on along like a poet, then toward the end he sometimes would get personal:

“And, Lord, thanks for bringing Steve and Marilyn to us. Thank you, Lord, for the encouragement they bring, and for the Gospel we have been able to hear every night.”

Sometimes when he got personal that way, you were glad you had that napkin close by.

When Doug prayed, you felt closer to God. You felt God was swooping down over the mountain and through the window so he could talk to a good friend face to face.

Oh, I wish I could put brother Doug’s prayers into words. And I wish I could express those blessings with a voice that quivered with a rare joy and thanksgiving.

I asked him once how he could pray that way, and he told me he sits down and writes prayers out, to try to say what he wanted to say to the Lord just the right way. I told him that, one day, I’d like for him to leave me some of those prayers. I’d like to study them. But even then, I know I wouldn’t be able to put the words together the way Doug did. I am most sure I won’t be able to travel nearly that far to those emotional, glorious back roads of the hearts where our deepest needs reside.

But I am going to try. I’m going to try to pray just a little bit the way Doug prayed. I may not move mountains, or shake the vast one outside his kitchen window the way he did. But I can at least try my hand at being a prayer warrior — a mountainous man of prayer — like Doug Miller.

Today, as I try, I thank the good Lord for all those great West Virginia memories. I thank the Lord for the Miller family and what all they mean to us, and for that church Doug and Karen Miller introduced the amazin’ blonde and me to a year ago.

And, on this day, most of all, I thank the Lord for Doug Miller.

It is with a deep sigh that I say that Doug, the great man of prayer, said his final prayer this past Monday, there at the bottom of that mountain where we had prayed together so many times.

He had to say goodbye to us, and to the love of his life and to a beautiful family that is very much our own.

But there’s a home in a shadowy West Virginia valley — and a little church not far away —where our prayer-man’s booming voice and fervent talks with the Lord will long be heard.

Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives and writes in Red Oak, Texas.