Do not settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart
Book of the Month – Prayer by Timothy Keller
As mentioned last month, in 2022 I am challenging myself to read at least one book a month on the topic of prayer. And in a world gone mad right now (Ukraine, Inflation, Covid, etc.), Timothy Keller has written a 262 page work that addresses something we all need to understand more and to do more – pray.
In a world of many books on the topic, this 2014 work is one that needs to be the top of a reader’s list to dig into. Books on prayer normally fall into one of three categories – theological, experiential and methodological. Keller tries to balance all three in his very easy to read apologetic style. In his practical approach, Keller does hit all the areas. While there are deeper works on each of the three areas (and he gives some in an appendix), his work hits all three in level for scholars (386 detailed end notes), pastors, and everyday believers.
In his discussion on the theological approach, Keller uses all three – Biblical, historical, and systematic theology. His insight into Augustine’s, Luther’s and Calvin’s approaches were illuminating.
Keller’s work has five areas: Desiring Prayer, Understanding Prayer, Learning Prayer, Deepening Prayer and Doing Prayer. Each of these areas challenge us. But like the opening quote – Do not settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart – he informs the readers and challenges us to engage our heart as he “delves into the many facets of this everyday act.”
Enough of the general – let me get a little specific. One of the chapters that engaged my heart was chapter nine – What is Prayer. This chapter gives broad sweeps and deep thoughts.
What prayer is …
- Duty and Delight (from a JI Packer work)
- Responding to the Word of God in conversation
- A balance of praise, confession thanksgiving, and supplication
What prayer requires – grace, fear and helplessness
What prayer gives – perspective and spiritual reality
Where prayer takes us – self knowledge, trust and surrender
Beyond this chapter, Keller expounds that to do prayer, we should grasp the reality of God’s love (Eph 3:16-19.)
The final section – Doing Prayer – separates Awe, Intimacy, Struggle and Practice of prayer.
The concluding chapter deals with the specific methodology of prayer – how often, staying Biblically grounded, connecting private and corporate prayer, and patterns to prayer. The bullet points and outlines ate excellent starts for a group discussion.
This book makes prayer practical. Though he makes it very practical, it goes beyond practical and makes it personal and powerful for each reader.
It could have used some discussion questions and small group guidelines. Fortunately, there are many churches that have used this work and made their own outlines and guides. One example is seen here. (I have not used these, I just Googled and this popped up.)
If I had to sum it up – Keller shares that prayer is an encounter. And his work helps us deepen and appreciate the encounter with the almighty God.
This book is worth the read for everyone.
Post Script: please note, this isn’t so much a scholarly or academic review (been there, done those) … this is a personal review of how this work impacted me as I am receiving my passion for prayer by reading on prayer.
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