This is the best book on prayer I have read in ages. It answered my questions, provided encouragement, and gave me several models to follow. He explains his own research and experience when he wanted to deepen his prayer life.
Keller starts with the purpose of prayer. Is it communion centered, to experience the presence of God, peacefully reflect on Him and experience personal communication with Him? Or is it kingdom centered, fervently petitioning Him to bring His will to pass? Both, Keller says.
He reminds us that nothing great is easy. “Prayer must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world.” (24) The foundation of our prayers is important. “The more we clearly grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.” (62)
Keller explores learning to pray from the works of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. He also takes us through the model prayer, The Lord's Prayer. He writes of meditating on the Word and then the kinds of prayer (upward, inward, outward).
I was particularly struck by Keller's discussion of a heart experience, that is, making an effort to experience God in prayer. Personally, raised as one of the “frozen chosen,” experience was frowned upon. Reviewing Owen on prayer, Keller writes, “If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will lead eventually to nominal Christianity – that is, in name only – and eventually to nonbelief.” (180)
I greatly appreciated his teaching on petitioning in prayer. “We should discipline ourselves to connect each petition to what we know about God...” such as what delights Him and what grieves Him (229). Keller explores the “two purposes of petitionary prayer – to put the world right ('thy kingdom come') and to align our hearts with God ('thy will be done').” (230)
There is much every Christian can gain from reading this book. Keller draws from a number of resources, both ancient and contemporary. There are nearly fifty pages of footnotes. For those who would like to study further, a Selected Annotated Bibliography on Prayer is included.
I took copious notes and here are a few of the passages that captured my interest and gave me food for thought:
“Prayer is the only entry way into genuine self-knowledge.” (18) “Nothing but prayer will ever reveal you to yourself, because only before God can you see and become your true self.” (30)
“To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule – it is a failure to treat God as God.” (26)
“...[P]rayer is faith become audible.” (70)
“Prayer turns theology into experience.” (80)
Timothy Keller first pastored in Hopewell, Virginia. He started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1989. Today Redeemer has more than five thousand regular Sunday attendees and has helped to start more than two hundred and fifty new churches around the world. He is the author of several books. He lives with his family in New York City. Find out more at www.redeemer.com and www.timothykeller.com.
Dutton, 330 pages.