Timothy Keller
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
Dutton (Penguin Group), US, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1444750171

Prayer Tim Keller2 

 

"A challenging, in-depth and ultimately uplifting book for anyone interested in developing their prayer life, whether a new Christian or, indeed, someone who has been praying for their entire life."

Prayer is an essential part of Christian life yet for many it’s not as fulfilling nor as central an experience as it should be. Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, aims to redress that in this New York Times best-seller which is, at its essence, a ‘how to’ guide to developing - and enriching - your prayer life.

Keller starts by stating that most books on prayer tend to emphasise one particular form over another – either prayer which is essentially about an inward experience of intimacy with God or prayer which is about petitioning for God’s will to be done in the Earth around us. Keller regards the choice as unnecessary – both forms are an important part of a prayer life. As he puts it, “prayer is both conversation and encounter with God”.

Keller spends considerable time looking at what prayer is, the Biblically-based reasons for why we pray and its central importance to the Christian experience. Along the way he speaks about his personal struggle to develop his prayer life – a journey which he says took some time, adding that prayer is one of “hardest things in the world”, a statement which should be an encouragement to all.

But it’s from part three of the book onwards that many Christians will want to spend time in as the author sets about looking at how we can encounter God through prayer, starting with a series of “masterclasses” by three giants of the faith – St Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther and John Calvin – and then turning to the ‘Prayer of Prayers’, examining in detail the example Jesus set before us in what is more commonly known as the 'Lord’s Prayer'.

Keller then conveniently summarises the learnings contained in those reflections in a series of what he calls “touchstones” – key principles on which a healthy and thriving prayer life is based. And he is at pains to again reiterate that this is not an instant or easy journey: “Prayer – though it is often draining, even an agony – is in the long term the greatest source of power that is possible”.

The final part of the book is concerned with the practical as it looks at how we actually set about the task of praying. Keller draws in a wide range of sources here - among them the 16th century English Reformer Thomas Cranmer, CS Lewis and Matthew Henry - as he looks at how we shape the way we pray – the necessity of praise and thanks, understanding our need for self-examination and repentance, how to ask things of God, and, perhaps most importantly of all, how to make prayer a regular (daily) part of our life (there’s some great practical examples at the end on how to set about this).

A challenging, in-depth and ultimately uplifting book for anyone interested in developing their prayer life, whether a new Christian or, indeed, someone who has been praying for their entire life.