Last November, Tim Keller published another book on another much needed topic for Christians – prayer. His book Prayer: Experiencing Intimacy With God bears all the marks of typical Keller…thorough, Reformed and practical. I mean all three in the best possible way.
Sometimes thorough can be a problem where someone spends way too much time on a particular angle on things that you get bored. If you have read Keller’s work you know he has a style that manages to keep your attention while covering all the bases (even a few bases you didn’t know existed). Keller doesn’t just want you talking with God. He wants you encountering God. You can tell from his writing that he has personally experienced the difference. Have you? If not, give this book a read and see how it helps you discover the difference.
Keller operates out of the Reformed movement and leans heavily on Scripture and also on the works of men like Edwards and Calvin. Sometimes that gets to be too much in books like this but this book was different. This time, I felt like the pieces Keller chose to share where extremely helpful and gave insight into the prayer lives of these men that I haven’t spent a lot of time examining. Some of his best suggestions were things gleaned from what he has learned in the study of the spiritual giants of the past.
Keller doesn’t just want you to pray, he wants to encourage you to dive headlong into a vibrant relationship with the God of the universe. Doing so requires much more than reciting wrote scripts. It requires more than just being biblical. It ultimately involves the culmination of all of our being, drawn closer and deeper into relationship with the God of the universe.
All in all, Keller doesn’t just give you a few forms of prayer to try. He helps you understand why prayer is important and then lets the function of prayer flow out of that. In other words, since prayer is relational and transformational prayer must include things like repentance and self-evaluation. So he suggests things like meditating over scripture, say the 10 commandments, and allowing the outflow of that meditation to result in prayer. You would pray over the 10 commandments that you are currently struggling most with. That is just one example of many.
This was more than a how to on prayer. This book provides a why. Why is prayer important? Why does it matter that we pray to a God who already knows everything and whose will is already perfect? What difference can prayer actually make? Keller answers those questions in this book and he does so by pulling together the best scholarship and states it in a way that is accessible to the average Christian. Before you can answer the “how” questions, Keller answers the “why” questions and hones in on our heart’s desires (getting his cue from the work of James K.A. Smith and others).
What is more, he spends considerable time describing how Christians (particularly from the Reformation movement) of the past spent time in prayer and what lessons we can learn from the deeply spiritual people of the past. He also spends plenty of time in the Appendices giving ideas and outlines to help you be more consistent and effective in your every day prayer life.
At the end of the day prayer is transformational. It is redemptive, repentive and relational. In short, it is something we must invest ourselves into and give it enough time for a relationship to form and get all of the clutter out there and then out of the way. This book left me with a desire for a better prayer life through Keller’s teaching and the example of those who have gone before us. It is too easy to coast on autopilot and we often need encouragement to make adjustments in our walk.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is searching for a richer prayer life. It may be a little advanced for a new Christian but not overwhelmingly so with some guidance.