It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
I have for about a year now been embarked upon a quest to learn how to pray. I have read dozens of sermons from collections by Charles Spurgeon and E. M. Bounds, I have studied Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer, John Bunyan’s Praying in the Spirit and Throne of Grace, C. S. Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm, Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, and I have on my desk, reading table, and bed stand a stack of unread tomes of equal or surpassing weight (I wince at the length and tiny typeset of Matthew Henry’s A Method for Prayer). My most recent literary endeavor, however, was found in Tim Keller’s refreshing and brand new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.
Keller startled me in the very first chapter by describing the very condition from which I am suffering. “In the second half of my adult life, I discovered prayer. I had to … It became clear to me that I was barely scratching the surface of what the Bible commanded and promised regarding prayer.”1 Keller readily admits that at age 52, not much younger than the age of your correspondent, almost a dozen years after he started his work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, he was met by “my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer … As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone.”2
Keller’s book consists of fifteen chapters, organized into five parts styled “Desiring Prayer”, “Understanding Prayer”, “Learning Prayer”, “Deepening Prayer”, and “Doing Prayer.” As with all of his writing, the text is approachable and written as a model of clarity, yet the 386 footnotes testify to the depth and breadth of research and analysis the author devotes to his literature. Keller explains the understanding and practice of Christian prayer as both a conversation and encounter with God, and concludes the book with a practical pattern of daily prayer, both morning and evening, consisting of approaching God, Bible reading, meditation on Scripture, and deliberatively praying in the four traditional schools of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Keller also provides a concise but grandiose bibliography of both classic and modern literature on prayer.
My first prayer request is always, “Lord, teach me to pray,” for I know all too well that “we do not know how to pray as we should”. Ro. 8:26
by Doug Rose
1Keller, Timothy, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York, N.Y.: Dutton, 2014), p.9.