Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prayer {by Tim Keller // the bullets}

Tim Keller has written a feast of insight and doable encouragement in his book Prayer.  (Super thanks to one very cool redheaded K brother in law for the book!)  It's taken me between two Christmas's, plus a little, to keep at it long enough to get to these chapters that have most impacted me.  I don't know why I put the book down for such long stretches, but I am deeply soul grateful to have made it to chapters 7 -10.

I realized recently that until I've written something down, I don't feel like I really know it...  know what I'm thinking.  I have only a swirling chaos of feelings until I've written down the swirling lines and seen it all settle somewhere, hopefully into some order.  Writing is thinking for me.  And hopefully writing will help me remember.

So... here's a few bullet points I long to know and remember and live well:  quotes (some from Keller, and more from dead theologians he recalled in these chapters) and doable suggestions and guidelines for prayer and scripture meditation:

Luther's teaching on prayer~

He wrote of inclining the mind and heart by mulling over Scripture like this.  Take one verse or one passage and consider it, let it weigh down on you from four different angles:  consider the verse as a command of God for me, as a cause for thanksgiving and praise, as a confession of how and where I fall short, and as a prayer for the grace I need to grow in this way...  He suggests that the second part of a helpful prayer time is going through the Lord's prayer as a pattern for inserting your own, specific needs and thanks and issues to surrender to the Lord.  Notice that both of these steps require our mind being fully engaged.  No "tuning out" possible!  His final "step" is to simply pray as you feel led by the Holy Spirit and to keep attentive to what He may preach to you now that you have inclined your mind and heart towards Him and His Word.  

Calvin's "rules" on prayer ~

1-  the joyful fear:  "there is nothing worse than to be devoid of awe."  Tim Keller
2-  the sense of need that excludes all unreality: a spiritual humility that doesn't try to perform to impress God
3-  submissive trust:  we come to God bringing our requests and leaving them with Him, "Your will be done.  You know best, Father"
4-  confidence and hope:  God invites us to ask and promises to answer - may we have eyes and hearts ready to receive what he deems is best.
5-  the rule against rules:   Following any set of rules could not make our prayers worthy to be heard... only grace can do that- not our performance but the saving, gracious, loving work of Christ on the cross.

And then from Keller's chapter ten, "Meditation."

  • The Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible and they begin not with a prayer but with a meditation on meditation (Psalm 1).  
  • Questions to ask yourself to get to know a verse or passage:
    • Am I living in light of this?  Am I taking this seriously?
    • What difference does this make?
    • What results from forgetting this?
    • What does this teach me about God and His character?
    • What does this teach me about human nature and behavior?
    • What does this teach me about Christ and His salvation?
    • What does this teach me about the church or life in the people of God?
  • Application:
    • Are there personal examples for me to emulate or avoid?
    • Any commands to obey?
    • Any promises to claim and cling to?
    • Any warnings to heed?
    • Why might God be showing you this passage today?
  • "You can't reflect on or enjoy what you don't understand.  To understand a section of Scripture means answering two main questions:  1) what did the original author intend to convey to his readers?  2) what role does this text play in the whole Bible; how does it contribute to the arc of the Bible message, which climaxes in the salvation provided by Jesus Christ?"  (Keller)
  • More ways to handle the Word of God, to know it deeply and know it well...  
    • Emphasize each word individually as you read and reread the verse.
    • Paraphrase a passage in your own words.
    • Memorize the passage.
  • And this crowning GRACE:  "How can anyone truly think intensely about the law of God and not fall into despair?...  Look at the central figure of the Word, the Word made flesh, the great Mediator."  He is not only our example and our teacher, His life and death satisfy God for us!

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