A Thoroughly Reformed Book on Prayer

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This morning, I finished reading Tim Keller's new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. I very much appreciated the book--I read it a chapter at a time during my morning worship times and found myself reminded of much that I knew, but also spurred on toward a genuine engagement with God through prayer. It was hugely encouraging, thought-provoking, and insightful (and the discursive endnotes are mini-treatises not to be missed).

The thing that particularly struck me about the book was how thoroughly Reformed it was. That shouldn't be a surprise to those who really pay attention and who have recognized how well Keller popularizes our Reformed tradition. Still, this book was a distillation of several Reformed sources on prayer: John Calvin (along with his Lutheran friend, Martin Luther), John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and especially the Westminster Standards. 

And from these impeccable Reformed guides, Keller emphasizes that Word and Spirit combine together as we pray: our praying is rooted in the Bible. Not simply Bible study, but meditation upon Scripture provides the material for our praying. The Psalms, especially, serve as a kind of prayer book that, along with the Lord's Prayer, offer guidance; praying but also singing these psalms are a way to be shaped even as we pray. And yet, this praying is not simply intellectual; rather, our hearts are engaged as we pray and our affections moved so that we come to enjoy God. All of these themes come directly from the Reformed tradition.

In fact, this book was so Reformed at points, I couldn't help but wonder what a non-Calvinist Southern Baptist, United Methodist, or even Roman Catholic who bought this book at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon would make of it. At one level, I think they would find the best of our theological tradition on display--its fine balance of heart and head. And they would find it to be winsome and attractive: hardly anyone presents the outlines of the Reformed faith in a more winsome fashion than Keller. That said, I wondered how they would take the repeatedly references to Reformed bona fides

On the other side of things, I also wondered about those who for a variety of reasons have criticized Keller for not be Reformed enough. What would they make of the repeated references to Calvin and Owen, the appeals to the Westminster Standards, the clear teaching on repentance? How can Reformed critics not see that this is an excellent book that is distilling and popularizing our tradition in the best way possible? 

Tim Keller's Prayer takes its place among the very best Reformed books on the topic--no, check that. It is one of the best books on prayer, period. It is one to which I will return year-by-year as a benchmark for my own praying as my heart and life is Reformed according to Scripture. 
Posted December 16, 2014 @ 8:53 PM by Sean Lucas

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