Book Review. Timothy Keller, “Prayer”

Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Welcome to Book Review day.We’re taking a look at the book “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” by Timothy Keller (New York: Penguin Books, 2014). Now that that title sounds attractive — “Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God”? I could use some “awe” in my prayers to make them more “awesome”.  And intimacy with God would be great too, as long as I don’t have to give up too many favorite things to get there.

The author, Timothy Keller, discovered prayer in 2001 when he was a Manhattan pastor. That was a hugely eventful year for him. It was the year of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Keller’s wife, Kathy, was struggling with Krohn’s disease, and Keller got thyroid cancer.  That’s what started the Kellers on their prayer journey.

I hope my journey into prayer — and yours — will have an easier starting point.

Keller’s book on prayer is well researched, balanced, rigorous, and scholarly. Working from a Reformed perspective, Keller offers theological and practical teachings from Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, O. Hallesby, Eugene Peterson, and others. The book has 323 pages and 386 end notes.  If you don’t have time to read the whole book, you can get almost everything you need just by reading the chapter titles and the end notes. That’s what I read first — the end notes.

If you aren’t so much interested in a scholarly approach, this might not be the book for your. Perhaps you want something that offers warmth or encouragement. In fact, I haven’t quite finished the book myself.  I’m on page 222, and I’m can’t get around to finishing it, because after 200 pages of information and end notes, my head is full. What I need now is a bit of encouragement and motivation to pray.

And finally, here are three things I like about the book.

Keller recognizes and encourages the two basic types of prayer: prayer that asks  God for stuff, and prayer that expresses a relationship with Him.

Second, I like the breadth of the book. It summarizes almost every topic I’ve read on prayer in the last few years. It’s a helpful overview of 2000 years of Western thinking about prayer.

My third reason for liking Keller’s book: the last chapter has some excellent suggestions for how to pray.

He also has a helpful metaphor for assessing your prayer life.  If your soul is a boat with a sail and oars, would you say your prayers are sailing along, rowing, drifting, or sinking?  He says is that praying is mostly rowing, and often it’s like rowing in the dark when you can’t see where you’re going. His advice is don’t quit, don’t drift, don’t sink — put your hands on the oars and start rowing.  

So there it is.  Timothy Keller. “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.”  

Read it.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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