A Challenging, Comprehensive, and Deep Look at Prayer: A Review of Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

PrayerPastor Tim Keller has been a fairly prolific author over the last number of years, contributing some very solid and readable books to the body of work being put out by evangelical Christians. In his newest book, Keller tackles the bugaboo of many Christians- their prayer life. It is a pretty well-known that Christians in general struggle to pray, and many, from the elders to the newest converts, don’t devote nearly enough time to this invaluable spiritual discipline. Keller’s book is entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton, 2014).
The book is divided into five parts: Desiring Prayer, Understanding Prayer, Learning Prayer, Deepening Prayer, and Doing Prayer. Each part is divided into two, three, or four chapters covering related issues to the section. I greatly appreciated Keller’s flow of thought in the book. Starting with the simple concept in chapter one of “The Necessity of Prayer,” he sets the tone for the book. Christians must pray. It is not optional, it is not a nice thing to do. It is as mandatory as obeying the commands of our Lord. But the question logically follows that if I know that I need to pray, I must ask “What is Prayer?” This covers chapters 3-5, where Keller gets a little bogged down in some various views on prayer even from outside Christian thought, but returns in his explanation of prayer to the text of scripture and some of the giants of church history. Once I know that I must pray and what prayer is, the next logical step is to ask, “how do I pray?” To this subject Keller turns in chapters 6-9. Using Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and a few others as models, Keller lays out various patterns and methods of prayer. While he uses a lot of extrabiblical material in these chapters, he is always careful to make it clear that these are suggestions, not normative for practice. The final two sections take the reader a little deeper into suggestions for a deeper prayer life and closing with four chapters on the nuts and bolts of doing prayer.
For Keller, this is a long book (over 300 pages and larger in format than some of his previous works). It is also not written on the same popular level as some of his earlier writings, though I believe that anyone who has read and enjoyed his previous books will draw great benefit here as well. The book takes you deep, and places you in the company of others who have gone before. You have to be ready for this, the book is not just a biblical theology of prayer, but a combination theology/practical guide for how to grow in this vitally important area of Christian development. I would highly recommend it for any Christian seeking to understand prayer better. Know what you are getting. It is not a fast read, nor is it meant to be. If we are to learn to commune with the God of all creation, some time invested is a basic requirement. Well worth the read.