Book review: “Prayer” by Tim Keller

Tim Keller, the author of our “book of the term” for Lent, began to search for a deeper prayer life when three things happened around autumn 2001. The Twin Towers of 9/11 deeply affected the city in which his church ministers, New York. His wife struggled with Crohn’s Disease. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The cumulative pressure drove them both to resolve that praying together every night must henceforth be non-negotiable, and led him to read about, preach about, and then write this book about, prayer.

Like many students in the late 1980s I read the modern classics on prayer (Ole Hallesby, Bill Hybels, John White) and found them helpful. But what none of these books do is to teach what prayer is, as well as how to do it. They major on experience and practice, but not doctrine, whereas all of us need all three of these stool-legs to support our Christian life. Keller’s book covers all three with the clarity, pastoral touch, and Biblical weight typical of him.

He moves through the Biblical teaching on prayer, using the language of the Psalms especially, to the forms of prayer (referencing the Lord’s Prayer), to deepening it through meditation on Scripture and encounter with God, and closing with a practical section on the four essential aspects of prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition). Keller manages to remain utterly Biblical in approaching prayer, whilst engaging helpfully with the wisdom on prayer of some great Christians of the past.

I am delighted that Keller has written this book, and that we are to read it together as a church as our Lent “book of the term”.

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