Monday, October 27, 2014

"The Priceless Payoff of Prayer"

Tim Keller is one of my favorite contemporary Christian pastor-theologians. He's the senior pastor of a Presbyterian congregation that he planted in New York City.

What's remarkable about Redeemer Presbyterian Church is that in the heart of Manhattan, a place thought to be utterly cynical and insusceptible to claims for the authority of the Bible as God's definitive Word to human race, the truth of the miracles it records, including Christ's resurrection and virgin birth, the reality of the existence of eternity, and Christ's teaching that faith in Him is the only way to life with God, made by Keller and the congregation, the church has grown and thrives.

Keller is the author of many good books which I've read and enjoyed. He has a new one out, called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.

A member of Living Water sent a link to an interview with Keller surrounding the book. I loved reading it. It appears on the Gospel Coalition website.

A sampling of a few questions and Keller's answers.
You recall being convicted upon realizing that the apostle Peter “assumed an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal” (1 Pet. 1:8). How do we rightly pursue such joy, especially when it feels far more elusive than normal?

"You just have to be faithful and regular in prayer. Most of us pursue joy in prayer, don’t get it, and then don’t stick at it. But as the Puritans used to say, “Mind your work, not your wages.” Prayer is a duty—even if we don’t get much out of it emotionally, we nevertheless owe it to God. Christians necessarily believe we depend on God for everything—a prayerless Christian, then, is a contradiction in terms. But if there is a secret to this, it may be right here. When we seek God for himself, not for some emotional payoff, and we develop habits of regular prayer, the sense of joy and of his presence is more likely to come and come more often."
Why is it so crucial to pray in Jesus’s name? What are some ways we pray in our own names instead?

"To pray in Jesus’s name means to acknowledge that we only have access to the Father’s attention and grace through the mediation and work of our Savior. So just using the words “in Jesus’s name” is not sufficient. We use the words to reinforce the required attitudes and motives. To pray “in Jesus’s name” is to come before God in both humility (knowing we don’t deserve God’s help) and confidence (knowing that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and worthiness), as well as grateful joy.

"To pray in Jesus’s name, then, is to be aware of the grace of the gospel as the basis of prayer, and to have our attitude in prayer deeply enriched—both humbled and exalted. When we consciously or unconsciously expect God to hear our prayer because of our relative freedom from overt sin or because of our service and moral effort, we are praying in our own name."
And this...
What advice would you give to those who struggle with getting distracted and losing their train of thought while praying?

"Martin Luther suggested meditation. For example, if you paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer, as Luther counsels, it forces you to concentrate. Almost any method of meditation can focus the mind and then engage the affections so that when you turn to prayer you won’t be distracted. It should go without saying—but I will say it—that what I mean by “meditation” is not any of the contemplative practices that aim at getting beyond words and rational thought into pure awareness of our oneness with God. Biblical meditation, rather, is filling the mind with Scripture and then “loading the heart” (to use John Owen’s phrase) with it until it affects not only the emotions but the entire life."
Read the whole interview here.

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