(290) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY
PRAYER / TIMOTHY KELLER – Part 1
I have not completed this book yet but so far, this book is a breath of fresh air in the plethora of books by Evangelical authors today. The subject of prayer today is filled with so much influence from extra-Biblical sources – mainly Eastern mystical philosophies and early church Roman Catholicism.
Keller describes the Scriptural view of Prayer based on the Word of God. He shows how words are also considered actions because language is intrinsic to personal relationships. Fundamentally this can be seen in the relationship in the Trinity. God communicates through words.
Keller states that Christian prayer is NOT plunging into the abyss of unknowing and a state of wordless hyperconsciousness. That condition is created not by words per se but by sounds. “The techniques that prepare for [the mantra meditation state of samadhi] feature repetitive sounds, sights, or actions. Analytical thought is mesmerized to favor intuitive awareness, a relaxed state in which one’s consciousness of individual identity is suspended.
Rather, Christian prayer is fellowship with the personal God who befriends us through speech. The biblical pattern entails MEDITATING on the WORDS of SCRIPTURE until we respond to God with our entire being, saying, “Give me an undivided heart, that …I may praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart” (Ps 86:11-12).
God’s speaking and acting are equated – (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing. The God of the Bible is a God who “by His very nature, acts through speaking.”
“More MYSTICALLY minded people sometimes suppose that words by their very nature are an obstruction to the goal of a deep communion with God, but that is just not so.” If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God. “Communication from God is therefore communion with God, when met with a response of trust from us.”
How are we to receive God’s words? They come to us in the Scripture. The Bible says that God will put his words in the mouths of the prophets (Deut 18:14-20; Jer. 1:9-10). Once a prophet receives God’s words they can be written down and can effectively be read as God’s speech when the prophet is not present or even after hi is dead and gone (Jer 36:1-32). The Bible, then, is God’s Word written, and it remains God’s Word when we read it today.
The conclusion is clear. God acts through his words, the Word is “alive and active” (Heb 4:12), and therefore the way to have God dynamically active in our lives is through the Bible. 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.
Again, a welcome resource based on Scripture that goes against the popular trend today among Evangelical authors who promote mysticism, mantra meditation, contemplative prayer,…etc. – which have their origins more closely aligned with Eastern Mysticism and early Roman Catholic traditions than they have with biblical Christianity. I highly recommend Keller’s book on prayer!!!