I’m eagerly looking forward to reading Tim Keller’s about-to-be-released book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.
As part of the launch of the book, Tim Keller recently participated in a discussion about prayer hosted by John Piper and Desiring God ministries. There are several audio files from that interview available, as well as a printed transcript.
Here are a few key excerpts from the transcript:
On why Keller finds the Psalms helpful in shaping his prayer life:
The Psalms, in a sense, give you the permission to pour out your complaints in a way that we might think inappropriate, if it wasn’t there in the Scriptures. But on the other hand, the Psalms demand that you bow in the end to the sovereignty of God in a way that modern culture wouldn’t lead you to believe.
The role of meditation on the Scriptures in warming our hearts and helping us adore God in prayer:
…take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it — get it into your heart.
And it diminishes our prayer life that our hearts are cold when we get into prayer. Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.
On dealing with the issue of distractions:
How am I going to get to prayer? How am I going to deal with [distractions]? I say, maybe you don’t believe you need prayer. And that is a theological, spiritual problem, and there is nothing I can do except tell you to get your heart and your mind straight on that.
Having said that, once you determine you must do it, inside your prayer time, it is hard sometimes to keep from being distracted. That is where meditation helps. Martin Luther said that if you warm your heart through meditation on the Scriptures, so that your heart starts to really warm up, you go into prayer because you want to pray, because you want to praise him for what you see, and you want to confess your sins.
Meditation on a passage of Scripture keeps me from being distracted in prayer. You say: Okay, what does it mean to me? How do I praise God for this? How do I confess for this? How do I petition for this? Meditation warms the heart and absorbs the mind so I am not as distracted.
On the crucial importance of knowing God as “Our Father” as we pray:
And so if I forget that God is my Father, I may come to him in prayer in a mercenary way, saying: I am going to do this and this and this, and now you owe me this and this and this. First, that destroys the ability to adore God. You are basically in petition. Secondly, it makes prayer a way of manipulating God. […]
So I would say calling God Father means, on the one hand, I’m assured of grace and assured that he is always going to hear me. So that makes my petitions stronger. But on the other hand, it also means that I have to confess my sins because this wonderful God who has done all this for me and has brought me into his family at infinite cost of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that I need to obey him because of his good grace.
So to call God Father enhances everything you do in prayer. If you don’t know that God is your Father, it flattens and reduces and thins out every prayer.
Audio files can be found here:
- How to Pray the Psalms
- Fighting for Solitude
- Joy, Sorrow, and the Healthy Prayer Life
- We Pray to a Father
- Prayers That Don’t Work