A Review of Timothy Keller’s Prayer

Timothy Keller has written a useful survey of writings about prayer. He aims to enable a Christian to know both awe and intimacy with God. I greatly appreciated his references to writers throughout history who have written concerning the spiritual discipline of prayer. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Martin Luther, J. H. Packer, and Matthew Henry are only a few of the noteworthy people of prayer that he cites. His annotated bibliography at the end of the book contributed four more books to my “to read list.”

Keller seems confused as to how prayer would function as part of the Christian’s “armor of God,” but makes useful comments about connecting the practice of prayer with systematic, consecutive reading of the Bible. He also describes how to use the Psalms in learning to pray and recommends Martin Luther’s method of building personal prayer around the outline of the Lord’s Prayer. An appendix at the end of the book includes several templates for building a regular and thoughtful practice of prayer.

Keller is wary of prayer that is grounded in repeated mantras or in wordless silence. For him, prayer is grounded in Scripture. In this way, prayer becomes a conversation with the very real, personal God who has revealed himself through the Word. He does acknowledge that there are times when silence is appropriate, just as there are times in the best marriages when silent companionship speaks love to one’s spouse.

His confusion about prayer’s utility as part of the “armor of God” may stem from his not having served in the military. Prayer functions a means of communication with “higher headquarters” when under attack or when wanting to express praise or appreciation. The American military describes this as a “call for fire” and it is where I derived the name for this blog. Keller does recognize the role that regular, biblically infused, thoughtful prayer plays in maturing faith and building disciplined perseverance. His book is an excellent one with which to ponder about prayer and at times to argue with the author, while more often admiring the insights of his sources and the way in which he makes their writings relevant to our own time.

About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael likes to run, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
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