Book Review: Prayer


I’ve had several books that I am working on this month and I’ve finished them all about the same time. This book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller is the latest. Keller, as many of you know, is a pastor in New York City, a prolific writer, and a great thinker within the Church today. I find his books to be accessible and challenging.

Keller breaks the book up into sections which move from the Biblical understanding of prayer to the application of how to pray. The author likens the book as a “master’s class in prayer” as he uses the prayer lives and writings of the great thinkers and pray-ers of the church; men like St. Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther and John Owens. Keller provides an all-star lineup as he gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of these men (and others).

I started looking for some quotes to entice you with, but then the post would be quite long. I did, however, really like his final chapters on application because I think that many people have never really been taught to pray. For me, and many others, we have been taught to have a “daily quiet time” which mostly consisted of some sort of devotional reading or inductive Bible study. Keller encourages the reader to move beyond the “traditional twentieth-century evangelical devotional practices as well as the current restoration of medieval prayer forms.” He believes that we should pay greater attention to the Protestant theologians of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. He suggests doing this by:

  1. Praying for often: Rather than having just one quiet time a day, Keller suggest having various set times of prayer, much like the Daily Offices.
  2. Prayers that are more Biblical: By this he means prayers that are grounded in systematic Bible reading and study as well as disciplined meditations on passages. If we are going to have intimacy with God, then we need to ground ourselves in God’s Word as we already have it.
  3. More corporate. While we continue to pray privately, there is something about gathering together in community to pray and to learn to pray from one another as we gather in worship. While Keller doesn’t completely come down on extemporaneous prayer in worship, he says that these “spontaneous” prayers do not help the congregation learn to pray.
  4. Expecting more experiences in the full range of prayer: We should come to expect the joy, awe, and wonder of God as well as encountering the “Dark Night of the Soul.”

Keller’s book gave me a lot to think about and consider in my own prayer life. I think this would be a good book for personal study and reflection for anyone wanting to grow in their ability to pray.

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
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