Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God is the latest book by Timothy Keller, founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Pastor Keller introduces the book by emphasizing that any book on the essentials of prayer must treat all three aspects: theological, experiential (devotional), and methodological. Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God- one stimulates the other. Developing a fuller knowledge of God is a more critical thing to receive than a change of circumstances. We need, as Southern writer Flannery O’ Connor once stated, the constant soul reorientation of prayer. Prayer is the only way we gain entryway into genuine self-knowledge and deep change, the reordering of our lives.
Pastor Keller asserts that the infallible test of spiritual integrity is our private prayer life. Prayer, deeply mystical and richly prophetic- at once, is central to the Christian life. The author defines prayer as a “personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God.” The full range of biblical prayer only is possible if we respond in prayer according to who God is as revealed in Scripture, rather than championing our own personal agenda. Prayer becomes answering God, a full conversation. In prayer we address a triune God. Our prayers are heard through the distinct work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Prayer is a way to sense and appropriate access to God as His child. God must become our happiness. Pastor Keller specifically advocates studying and meditating on the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer can (a) guide us in the specifics of how to pray and (b) rid us of distracting thoughts as we enter into prayer. Meditation is spiritually tasting and digesting Scripture as well as drawing strength from God’s Word. Meditation prepares us for prayer. As we pray, we don’t need to be afraid we will ask for the wrong thing. God “tempers” the outcome with His incomprehensible wisdom.
The author exhorts us not to “settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart.” Praise is primary because it motivates the other types of prayer. We must praise God or live in unreality and poverty. Our prayers should evidence shameless assertiveness as well as restful submissiveness. Citing John Owen, Pastor Keller concludes:
” . . . if the affections of the heart are not engaged in prayer, real character change and growth in Christ-likeness is impossible. We cannot settle for less.”