A popular pastor puts the Bible back in prayer and sets the stage for an informed conversation with God.
Keller (Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, 2013, etc.) brings his considerable biblical, historical and literary knowledge to bear on the concept of prayer. The best-selling author of titles like The Reason for God and The Prodigal God shines an intellectual light on a topic that is more often discussed in mystical terms. For Keller, prayer is not only an inner experience of God, but also a true conversation requiring significant preparation and practice. Founder of Manhattan’s fast-growing Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Keller knows that his audience contains sophisticated Christians looking for more than simple daily devotions to guide their spiritual practices. They want context, and Keller enthusiastically obliges. Citing Scripture first and foremost—references to New Testament passages could keep a Bible study group busy for years—Keller also draws ideas from philosophers, theologians, scholars and other authors throughout the meticulously documented text. C.S. Lewis makes frequent appearances, as do St. Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin. This reliance on other sources of authority lends weight to Keller’s arguments but comes at some cost to storytelling. Keller offers occasional anecdotes to illustrate his points, but on paper, his words lack the engaging cadence of the sermons that draw thousands to his church each week. Instead of offering a ready-made answer to the question of how we should pray, he calls on students to do their own work, giving them tons of material on the meaning of prayer before he offers any how-to advice. When instruction does come, it’s not simple but careful, as in Keller’s word-by-word examination of the familiar Lord’s Prayer. For the author, building a solid foundation of understanding is an essential step in the journey toward an enlightened experience of God.
Not always riveting reading, but Keller provides a contextually rich guide and companion to prayer.