If you talk much about prayer chances are some people will feel guilty. At least this is my experience. Regular prayer is part and parcel of what a healthy Christian is. Churches that equip people to pray well are one’s that are growing. Charles Spurgeon once took several visitors around his church. During the course of his visit he took them to what he called the heating plant, which was nothing more than the place where an army of 700 people prayed for the service. Spurgeon, like all other pastors who desire to equip their congregations and lead them in the power of the Holy Spirit, knows that equipping the people of God to pray is at the heart of their work. Knowing this is why Dr. Tim Keller, wrote Prayer Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.
At the outset of this review it’s important to note that Dr. Keller doesn’t get into everything about prayer. He has in mind two specific points or as he says he intends to “show that prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. These two concepts give us a definition of prayer and a set of tools for deepening our prayer lives” (5). In part one, Keller explores desiring prayer by writing about the necessity, and greatness of prayer. Part two looks at understanding prayer by answering the question, “What is prayer?”, and how to converse with and encounter God. In part three, the author explores learning prayer through looking at letters on prayer, rules for prayer, the prayer of prayers and the touchstones of prayer. Part four is about deepening prayer. Here the author helps his readers understand his to mediate on the Word of god and seek His face. In the final portion of the book, Dr. Keller moves to bring into focus his teaching by looking at awe: praising His glory, intimacy: finding His grace, struggle: asking His help, and practice: daily prayer.
The Church has a long history of helpful teaching on the topic of prayer. Dr. Keller’s teaching follows in the long line of helpful teaching on prayer as he expounds the Lord’s Prayer and other texts that will help aid Christian’s prayer lives. Along the way he injects helpful insight from Luther, Calvin and Owen among others. As he provides the best insight from theologians of the past with instruction from the Word, Dr. Keller also blows away misconceptions about prayer, and meditation from the outside world.
I’ve said this before in previous reviews of Keller’s book and will say it again. Dr. Keller has a wide lens and narrow lens in his writing. In his wide angle lens he takes you outside the Church to see what the culture is saying. Then with his narrow angled lens, he takes you into the thought world of the Church—what she has taught throughout her history and into the world of the Bible. The wide and narrow perspective helps the reader to gain understanding and insight into the topic at hand. In the case of this book on prayer, Dr. Keller has written one of the most helpful books on prayer that I’ve read in quite some time.
Prayer Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God is a book for every Christian. Prayer is more than just a mere ritual. The Christian has been summoned to come before the Throne of God’s grace (Hebrews 4:16) through the death, burial, resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, the Christian has an exalted High Priest, Intercessor and Advocate before the Father. The summons to come before the throne of His grace is a summons to come to One in Jesus who knows His people through and through but who never sinned. Therefore when we come to Jesus in prayer we come to the One who loves us and who desires for us to not only give our petitions and requests to Him but for us to know Him.
As this review comes to a close I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from this new book by Keller:
“The greatness of prayer is nothing but an extension of the greatness and glory of God in our lives” (26).
“The clearer our understanding of who God is, the better our prayers. Instinctive prayer is like an emergency flare in reaction to a general sense of god’s reality. Prayer as a spiritual gift is a genuine, personal conversation in reply to god’s specific, verbal revelation” (46).
“The power of our prayers, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God” (49).
“Prayer is the way to experience a powerful confidence that god is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come” (73).
“Prayer turns theology into experience. Through it we sense his presence and receive his joy, his love, his peace and confidence, and thereby we are changed in attitude, behavior and character” (80).
“By praying with friends you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived” (119).
“Biblical meditation is founded on the work of sound biblical interpretation and study” (149).
“Mediation is spiritually tasting the Scripture—delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually digesting the Scripture—applying it thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope using it to remember how loved you are. To shift metaphors, meditation is taking the truth down into our hearts until lit catches fire there and begins to melt and shape our reactions to God, ourselves, and the world” (151).
“To behold the glory of Jesus means that we begin to find Christ beautiful for who he is in himself” (177).
“Thanksgiving is praising God for what he has done, while “praise proper” is adoring God for who he is in himself” (195).
“Praise for God’s love and goodness transforms effortlessly into thanksgiving for all the examples of his goodness in our life” (195).
Whether you’re a new Christian struggling with prayer or a seasoned saint, Keller’s book Prayer Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God has something for you. This book will help you not only how to pray but why you should pray. In addition to this this book will help enlarge your vision of God’s majesty which will stir your affections afresh with a passion and desire to pray. I highly recommend this wonderful resource by Dr. Keller and pray that the Lord would use it powerfully in the life of His Church and among His people, for His glory.
Author: Dr. Tim Keller
Publish: Dutton Adult (2014)
I received this book for free from Dutton Adult for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”