Pastoral Perspectives

New Year Pray-Solution

Around this time last year, I remember telling myself that I should devote more time to prayer and learn to pray meaningfully. After all, a new-year was dawning and it made sense to me that I should think of a New Year resolution.

Someone told me that you can come to a stage when reading devotionals one after the other can become very frustrating because somehow it does not satisfy the deep hunger within. It was the same for me. I have been a Christian for decades and I have been praying. I have attended courses, retreats and read many books on how to deepen my prayer life. Yet I have always felt the disconnection between my prayer and my life. When I reflected on many of the words that I have been praying, it dawned on me that many were ‘hand me down’ words. Meaning that I was merely repeating the words of what other people have been praying. I merely copied and pasted the prayers! It meant very little to me. When I began to analyse the words carefully, I realized that I did not really understand the words and I had to pause and think what I was actually praying. It made me look at the Scriptures for what it is and discover the wonderful words of life. I realized that I could pray the words of the Bible with a better understanding of who God is. Methods may vary but it has helped me to know that prayer is conversation and encounter with a personal God.

This realisation happened when I started reading Timothy Keller’s book on Prayer. It was birthed out of Keller’s realization of his own shortcomings in prayer. Both he and his wife were diagnosed with diseases during a certain season of their lives. This coupled with pastoring in Manhattan around the time of the September 11th terrorist attacks forced Keller to his knees and really began to practice and wrestle with the concept of prayer. Keller sought to write on the essentials of prayer from a “theological, experiential, and methodological” perspective.

Below is a brief summary of the book (by Kevin P Halloran)

This book is divided into five parts, each comprising from two to five chapters. Part one is called “Desiring Prayer,” which answers the “why?” question about prayer and digs into its necessity, mapping out the terrain for the rest of the book.

Part two, “Understanding Prayer,” describes the many differing views of prayer from many vantage points including world religions, the non-religious, and various Christian traditions. He then moves to discuss how prayer is our response to God’s Word and share how the Trinity is essential to true prayer.

Part three, “Learning Prayer,” interacts with great theologians from church history (Augustine, Luther, and Calvin), sharing their instruction and methods in prayer. Keller then moves on to prescribe modeling our prayers along the Lord’s Prayer before laying out a biblical and balanced grid of what prayer is, what it requires, what it gives, and where it takes us.

Part four, “Deepening Prayer,” dives deeper into meditation and the experiential aspect of prayer, interacting with theologians like John Owen, J.I. Packer, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis along gleaning truth and offering critique of medieval and Catholic practices of mystical prayer.

Part five, “Doing Prayer,” practically teaches just that: the place of praise in prayer, the role of the gospel in prayer, and our ability to ask for help in prayer. The last chapter offers a guide for daily prayer, sharing sample devotions and methods to practice.

Here are some quotes from the book which I hope will whet your appetite to read this book this holiday season.

“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.”

“Edmund P. Clowney wrote, “The Bible does not present an art of prayer; it presents the God of prayer.” We should not decide how to pray based on the experiences and feelings we want. Instead, we should do everything possible to behold our God as he is, and prayer will follow. The more clearly we grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.”

“The clearer our understanding of who God is, the better our prayers.”

“Biblical meditation is founded on the work of sound biblical interpretation and study.”

“The power of our prayers lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God.”

Title of Book: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy With God

Author: Timothy Keller

This book is available for borrowing in our church resource library.