This is my second post on Timothy Keller’s book “Prayer.” You can find my first post here.
The Greatness of Prayer.
He breaks this chapter into the themes that prayer is Supreme, Integral, Hard, Central and Rich. He begins with;
“Knowing God better is what we must have above all if we are to face life in any circumstances.” He continues, “He doesn’t see prayer as a means to get things from God, but as a way to get more of God himself. Prayer is the striving to get hold of God.” p. 21
His initial focus is on the prayers of Paul. While he is right in what he says about his prayers and his later engagement in that prayer is a gift to us; he misses how Paul’s prayer ethic follows the greater Biblical theme of God’s promise, that if you seek Him with all your heart, soul and strength, you will find Him. That if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. That if you earnestly seek Him, you will receive the desires of your heart – which is God himself. Deut 4, 1 Kings 8, Jer 29:13, Psalm 37:4, Matt 6:33.
In talking about the richness of prayer, he says
“One reason for the arduousness is because true prayer is “he soul in paraphrase.” God does not merely require our petitions but ourselves, and no one who begins the hard, lifelong trek of prayer knows yet who they are. Nothing but prayer will ever reveal you to yourself, because only before God can you see and become your true self…Prayer is learning who you are before God and giving him your essence. Prayer means knowing yourself as well as God.
While I think this quote belongs under the theme of Hardness of Prayer and not under the Riches of Prayer – it tells the wonderful truth of what happens when we start seeking God seriously. The more we seek God, the more bereft of our personal worthiness we become aware of – and yet, at the same time become deeply drawn into the mercy of Christ – not only towards ourselves, but, also for the world in which we are called to pray for.
There is much to commend in this chapter on the greatness of prayer, though I have to confess I struggle more than a little with the theme that “Prayer” itself is great. Prayer is the dialogue between God and ourselves. It’s not the actual dialogue that is great – rather its the sacred expectation that we are called to dialogue that makes it great. And yet, that sacred expectation, is the very thing that makes prayer great. In keeping with this theme, Keller perhaps should have concluded his chapter 1/2 a page earlier with his observation that, “Prayer unites us with God himself.” p 31.