Book Review: Prayer

prayer

 

To be a child of God means access.  We know God is attentively listening to us and watching us.” Tim Keller, Prayer

I am a huge fan of Tim Keller.  I’m not really a huge fan of Keller because of anything he has done…but rather because of what Christ has done through him…through a life yielded and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit that has been poured out in his teaching and his writing.  His newest book, Prayer, is a powerful reminder of the biggest blessing of being a Christian…access to our Heavenly Father.  I am sad to say that this is an area of my life that I haven’t been focused on and I have missed out on some of God’s most amazing blessings as a result of that.  Keller’s book is not condemning…it’s encouraging.  As always I have a great appreciation for the amount of Scripture he uses in his writing and his teaching in an obvious effort to point the learner to Jesus rather than to himself.  This book follows the normal Keller pattern of using tons of Scripture while teaching sound theology leading the reader towards the ultimate practical application.  I can honestly say that I have a renewed passion for prayer and revived spirit for how God wants to use prayer to speak truth into my life.

Here are several things that I highlighted while reading…

  • Besides looking at the actual prayers of the Bible, we should consider also the Scripture’s theology of prayer—the reasons in God and in our created nature that human beings are able to pray.
  • We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience.  They go together.
  • If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary.
  • You can’t manufacture the unmistakable note of reality that only comes from speaking not toward God but with him.  The depths of private prayer and public prayer grow together.
  • Prayer tunes your heart to God.
  • Through Christ, prayer becomes what Scottish Reformer John Knox called “an earnest and familiar talking with God,” and John Calvin called an “intimate conversation” of believers with God, or elsewhere,”a communion of men with God”—a two-way communicative interaction.  “For through Christ we have access to the Father by the Spirit.”  Ephesians 2:18
  • We would never produce the full range of biblical prayer if we were initiating prayer according to our own inner needs and psychology.  It can only be produced if we are responding in prayer according to who God is as revealed in the Scripture.
  • To be a child of God means access.  We know God is attentively listening to us and watching us.
  • Prayer is the way to experience a powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come.
  • We have the ultimate mediator and priest to end all priests (Hebrews 4:14-15).  He eliminates the gap so that we can know God as friend (Exodus 33:11).
  • Because in Jesus God became human, he is not only the God on the other side of the chasm, he is the bridge over the gap.  Thus he is the mediator of a new relationship with God that cannot fail because it is based on is faithfulness, not ours (Hebrews 9:14-16).
  • “To see the law by Christ fulfilled and hear his pardoning voice transforms a slave into a child and duty into choice.” William Cowper, Olney Hymns
  • The God to whom Christians pray is a triune God.  We can pray because God is our loving Father, because Christ is our mediator giving us access to the throne of the universe, and because the Spirit himself indwells us.
  • “One thing have I desired of the Lord, one thing I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord to behold the beauty of the Lord.”  Psalm 27:4
  • Prayer must be persevering.  “I urge you” wrote Paul tot he Christians at Rome, “to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me” Romans 15:30.  Prayer is striving.
  • These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Matthew 15:8
  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all of the Lord’s people.  Ephesians 6:18
  • We must avoid extremes—of either not asking God for things or of thinking we can bend God’s will to ours.  We must combine tenacious importunity, a “striving with God”, with deep acceptance of God’s wise will, whatever it is.
  • If we want freedom from being driven by fear, ambition, greed, lust, addictions, and inner emptiness, we must learn how to meditate on Christ until his glory breaks in upon our souls.
  • In the Garden of Eden, we sinned and lost the face of God.  This was the greatest disaster possible, because we were designed to live in the unique, perfect, marvelous light of his countenance.  We have wandered empty and destitute.  Moses realized that, in the beatific vision of the face of God, all his longings would be fulfilled.  He asked to see it—but his sin was a barrier.  In Jesus that barrier is taken away and we can being to see, though only partially and by faith, the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  When we meditate and pray the gospel and its attendant truths into our hearts with the power of the Spirit, those longings are slowly satisfied, and other things in life become gifts rather than gods, and we slowly but surely and radically change in our character and in all our relationships.
  • Prayer encounter with God takes the love of God, the greatness of God, the power of God, the wisdom of God—which most of us experience only on audio—and puts it on video.  Prayer plunges us into the fullness of who he is, and his love becomes more real than the rejection or disappointment we are experiencing.  Then we can handle our problems, and we can hold our heads up again.
  • The more we know we are forgiven, the more we repent; the faster we grow and change, the deeper our humility and our joy.
  • Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.  (from the Westminster Shorter Catechism)
  • We should ask God for things with boldness and specificity, with ardor, honesty, and diligence, yet with patient submission to God’s will and wise love.  All because of Jesus, and all in his name.

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