Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: Prayer

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Timothy Keller. 2014. Penguin. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Timothy Keller's Prayer is divided into five sections: desiring prayer, understanding prayer, learning prayer, deepening prayer, and doing prayer. The book is both academic (intellectual, theological) and practical. It addresses what prayer is, why we should pray, and how we should pray. The book is both reassuring and inspiring; above all, I think the book is packed with information. One of the things I liked best about it is how rich a resource it is on prayer: What did Augustine have to say on prayer? How about Martin Luther? John Calvin? John Owen? He shares what he's learned from what he's read. And he shares valuable advice from the cloud of witnesses! Now, I should also add, that Keller wasn't merely interested in what Luther or Calvin had to say about the subject. That would be misleading. The book is very much grounded in the Bible itself. What does the Bible have to say about prayer? (He shares quotes from Luther, Calvin, etc., because they were so well-grounded in the Word and placed such high value in understanding and applying it.)

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change— the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to. (18)
Therefore, knowing God better is what we must have above all if we are to face life in any circumstances. (21)
To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule--it is a failure to treat God as God. It is a sin against his glory. (26)
God does not merely require our petitions but our selves, and no one who begins the hard, lifelong trek of prayer knows yet who they are. Nothing but prayer will ever reveal you to yourself, because only before God can you see and become your true self… Prayer is learning who you are before God and giving him your essence. Prayer means knowing yourself as well as God. (30)
Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him. (48)
To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself…We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible. (54)
If the goal of prayer is a real, personal connection with God, then it is only by immersion in the language of the Bible that we will learn to pray, perhaps just as slowly as a child learns to speak… This wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God. (55, 56)
Prayer turns theology into experience. Through it we sense his presence and receive his joy, his love, his peace and confidence, and thereby we are changed in attitude, behavior, and character. (80)
As we have seen, all prayer is somewhat impure. It is never done with fully proper motives of heart or with language worthy of its object. It is received and answered by God, therefore, only by grace. Yet there is every indication in the Bible that we should be striving to pray rightly. (121)
To come to the Father in Jesus' name, not our own, is to come fully cognizant that we are being heard because of the costly grace in which we stand. (125)
In some ways prayer is simply connecting Jesus to your absolute helplessness, your sense of fragility and dependence. (128)
Prayer is the way that all the things we believe in and that Christ has won for us actually become our strength. Prayer is the way that truth is worked into your heart to create new instincts, reflexes, and dispositions. (132)
Meditation is spiritually tasting the Scripture--delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually digesting the Scripture--applying it, thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are. (150-1)
How do you do this practically? One way is Martin Luther's approach. After fixing the truth in the mind as instruction, he asks how it shows you something about the character of God for which you can praise him, something wrong about yourself for which you can repent, and something that is needed for which you can petition him. (158)
The written Word and its law can be a delight because the incarnate Word came and died for us, securing pardon for our sins and shortcomings before God's law. You can't delight in the law of the Lord without understanding Jesus' whole mission. (163)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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