"Prayer" by Timothy Keller

Prayer is one of those disciplines that more people struggle with than enjoy. We read and hear countless stories about the power of prayer, both in the Bible and from the Church. And then we take inventory of our lives and stand there bewildered by the canyon-sized chasm between what we know about prayer and how we experience it.

This book takes an abstract idea (prayer) and fleshes it out into a living, moving, breathing being. It teaches us the history of this being, its different forms, its purpose, and the way people from different circles have interacted with it. It then goes in depth into different methods that help us interact with it best. Ultimately, the purpose of this book is to grow us in the most fundamental element of our relationship with God – connection by communication – in order for us to know him better, love him more, and be made more like him.

What I Liked

  • Teaching: spiritual experience AND intellectual understanding. Encountering God and knowing God are equally as important as each other. Keller balances both of these elements incredibly well, referring to the duality as “an intelligent mysticism.”
  • Teaching: communion-centered AND kingdom-centered prayer. Communion-centered prayer aims to know God’s presence. Kingdom-centered prayer aims to see God’s work. These are also both taught mutually exclusively.
  • Teaching: The Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven…” How much do we really understand this prayer? How much do we really use it as a guide, as Jesus intended it? This is a fresh teaching on the subject.
  • Emphasis on the Bible. Keller instills this notion of prayer as “a responding to God.” God initiates all conversation with us through his Word – and at its root, our act of praying is nothing more than a continuation of that conversation. Prayer is defined as “a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God” (p.45), that knowledge of which is found through the Word. 
  • Conviction and encouragement. When you compare your measly prayer life to the richness of the one taught here, you will feel a lot of conviction and deficiency. But you will simultaneously be encouraged and delighted by how possible it is to have that richness and to grow in this discipline. It’s all grace.
  • Authoritative and trustworthy teaching. This book is steeped in research. There are 385 endnotes spanning over 46 pages, in addition to an annotated bibliography with over 25 book recommendations. This is not just the teaching of Tim Keller, but of saints past and present.

The Practice That Stuck With Me Most
I’m going to share a method Keller teaches that has been remarkably helpful to me in my prayer life. Building upon Martin Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray,” he outlines the following process:

  1. Meditation. The practice of really knowing the Word. “If prayer is to be a true conversation with God, it must be regularly preceded by listening to God’s voice through meditation on the Scripture” (145).
  2. Adoration & Thanksgiving. Praise based on the illumination of the passage just read.
  3. Confession. Repentance of sin based on the illumination of the passage just read.
  4. Petition & Intercession. For external purposes, to put the world right – “thy kingdom come.” For internal purposes, to align our hearts with God – “thy will be done.”
Of course, the book goes way more in depth on this. This simple practice has revolutionized my relationship between reading the Word and praying. Try it!

Would I Recommend This Book?

A resounding yes!


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