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resolved and reforming

a great sinner in need of a great saviour

Spiritual “Riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer

Luther suggests that after meditation on the Scripture, you should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalising each one using your own needs and concerns.

The value of this exercise is manifold. It addresses one of the great practical difficulties of prayer-distracting thoughts…The exercise of elaborating on the Lord’s Prayer commands the full mental faculty, and this helps greatly with the problem of giving God full attention.

Praying the Great Prayer forces us to use all the full language and basic forms of prayer…Praying the Lord’s Prayer forces us to look for things to thank and praise God for in our dark times, and it presses us to repent and seek forgiveness during times of prosperity and success. It disciplines us to bring every part of our lives to God.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer…brings boldness and comfort, and, of course, warms up the heart to slide right into the most passionate prayer for our most urgent concerns.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 93 – 94.

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The Fault In Our Hearts

Augustine’s first principle is that before you know what to pray for and how to pray for it, you must become a particular kind of person. “You must account yourself ‘desolate’ in this world…”

We must see that our heart’s loves are “disordered,” out of order. Things we ought to love third or fourth are first in our hearts. God, whom we should love supremely, is someone we may acknowledge but whose favour and presence is not existentially as important to us as prosperity, success, status, love, and pleasure.

Unless at the very least we recognise this heart disorder and realise how much it distorts our lives, our prayers will be part of the problem, not an agent of our healing…It won’t heal our hearts by reorienting our vision and helping us put things in perspective and bringing us to rest in God as our true security.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 84 – 85.

What I’ve Read (Learnt) About Prayer So Far

It’s so helpful when the author provides a summary.

Prayer is the continuation of a conversation that God has started. He started it when he implanted knowledge of himself in every human being, when he spoke through the prophets and in his written Word, and especially when he called us to himself through the Holy Spirit sent into our hearts…The character of prayer is determined by the character of God we are reaching toward. The God to whom Christians pray is a triune God. We can pray because God is our loving Father, because Christ is our mediator giving us access to the throne of the universe, and because the Spirit himself indwells us.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 83.

What Is The Cost Of Prayer?

How is such access (to God) and freedom possible? The only time in all the gospels that Jesus Christ prays to God and doesn’t call him Father is on the cross, when he says, “My God, my God, why have you forgotten me? Why have you forsake me?” Jesus lost his relationship with the Father so that we could have a relationship with God as father. Jesus was forgotten so that we could be remembered forever-from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus Christ bore all the eternal punishment that our sins deserve. That is the cost of prayer. Jesus paid the price so God could be our father.

Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 79 – 80.

If God did not need to create other beings in order to know love and happiness, then why did he do so?

Jonathan Edwards argues, in A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, that the only reason God would have had for creating us was not to get the cosmic love and joy of relationship (because he already had that) but to share it. Edwards shows how it is completely consistent for a triune God-who is “other-oriented” in his very core, who seeks glory only to give it to others-to communicate happiness and delight in his own divine perfections and beauty to others.

-Timothy J. Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 2014), 68.

How Deep Is Your Prayer?

We speak only to the degree we are spoken to.

Tim Keller proves this idea by quoting Eugene Peterson in p.55 who highlights the way a child picks up language.

“Because we learned language so early in our lives we have no memory of the process” and would therefore imagine that it was we who took the initiative to learn how to speak. However, that is not the case. “Language is spoken into us; we learn language only as we are spoken to. We are plunged at birth into a sea of language… Then slowly syllable by syllable we acquire the capacity to answer: mama, papa, bottle, blanket, yes, no. Not one of these words was a first word…All speech is answering speech. We were all spoken to before we spoke.”

It is therefore essential to the practice of prayer to recognise what Peterson calls the “overwhelming previousness of God’s speech to our prayers.” This theological principle…means that our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. We should “plunge ourselves into the sea” of God’s language, the Bible. We should listen, study, think, reflect, and ponder the Scriptures until there is an answering response in our hearts and minds. It may be one of shame or of joy or of confusion or of appeal-but that response to God’s speech is then truly prayer and should be given to God.

Where Can You Meet God?

Keller writes in p.54:

To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself.

When the Bible speaks, God speaks.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God. All human beings have some knowledge of God available to them. At some level, they have an indelible sense that they need something or someone who is on a higher plane and infinitely greater than they are. Prayer is seeking to respond and connect to that being and reality, even if it is no more than calling out into the air for help. (p.45)

The Richness of Prayer

Keller on pages 28-32 of his book on Prayer introduces a poem by poet George Herbert (1593-1633). This poem deals with the subject of prayer in one hundred words and without a single verb. What we get is two dozen word pictures. Keller goes on unpack the richness of this poem of prayer and prayer itself. It’s really worth a full read. But here’s Herbert’s poem reproduced along with a summary of Keller’s explanation.

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner’s towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kind of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

Prayer is “Gods breath in man returning to his birth.”
Prayer is a natural human instinct.

Prayer can be “softnesses, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss”.
Prayer is a nourishing friendship.

Prayer also is “a kinde of tune.”
Prayer changes those around us.

Prayer can be a “land of spices”.
Prayer is a journey.

Prayer can serve as a kind of heavenly “Manna” and quiet “gladnesse”.
Prayer helps us endure.

Prayer is “the soul in paraphrase”.
Prayer means knowing yourself as well as God.

Prayer is also an “engine against th’ Almightie”, “church-bels beyond the stars heard” and indeed are “reversed thunder”.
Prayer changes things.

Prayer is a “sinner’s towre”, the “Christ-side piercing spear”.
Prayer is a refuge.

Prayer is “a kinde tune” that transposes “the six daies world” with one “houre”.
Prayer changes us.

Prayer is a “plummet sounding heav’n and earth”.
Prayer unites us with God himself.

Prayer is “something understood.”
Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle-yet the way to reality.

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