My Favorite Quotes from “Prayer” by Tim Keller

What was most important to Paul when he prayed?

It is remarkable that in all his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Their existence was far less secure than ours is today. Yet in these prayers you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from marauding armies, or even for bread for the next meal. Paul does not pray for the goods we would usually have near the top of our lists of requests.

Does this mean that it would have been wrong to pray for such things? Not at all. As Paul knew, Jesus himself invites us to ask for our “daily bread” and that God would “deliver us from evil.” In 1 Timothy 2, Paul directs his readers to pray for peace, for good government, and for the needs of the world. In his own prayers, then, Paul is not giving us a universal model for prayer in the same way that Jesus did. Rather, in them he reveals what he has asked most frequently for his friends-what he believed was the most important thing God could give them.

What is that? It is-to know him better. P. 20

How do you discover the real you?

To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is looking, when nothing is forcing you to think about anything in particular. At such moment, do your thoughts go towards God? You may want to be seen as a humble, unassuming person, but do you take the initiative to confess your sins before God? You wish to be perceived as a positive, cheerful person, but do you habitually thank God for everything you have and praise him for who he is? You may speak a great deal about what a “blessing” your faith is and how you “just really love the Lord,” but if you are prayerless-is that really true? If you aren’t joyful, humble, and faithful in private before God, then what you want to appear to be on the inside match what you truly are. P. 22-23

Praying is hard work

I can think of nothing great that is also easy. Prayer must be, then, one of the hardest things in the world. To admit that prayer is very hard, however, can be encouraging. If you struggle greatly in this, you are not alone. P. 24

Contentment during trials

The question of the book of Job is posed in its very beginning. Is it possible that a man or woman can come to love God for himself alone so that there is a fundamental contentment in life regardless of circumstances (Job 1:9)? By the end of the book we see the answer. Yes, this is possible, but only through prayer. P. 48

The connection between our prayers and the Word of God

It is therefore essential to the practice of prayer to recognize what Peterson calls the “overwhelming previousness of God’s speech to our prayer”. This theological principle has practical consequences. It 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. P. 55

How do we go deeper spiritually?

This is an important discovery. Many of us have a devotional life in which we jump from fairly academic study of the Bible into prayer. There is a “middle ground,” however, between prayer and Bible study, a kind of bridge between the two. While deep experiences of the presence and power of God can happen in innumerable ways, the ordinary way for going deeper spiritually into prayer is through meditation on Scripture. “If we pray without meditation,” writes Edmund Clowney, “our own communion with God becomes poor and distant.” P. 146

What is biblical meditation?

When the first Psalm calls us to meditate, it uses a word that literally means “to mutter.” It refers to the fact that, particularly in ancient times, the Scripture was recited aloud from memory. There is no better way to meditate on a verse and draw out all aspects, implications, and richness of its meaning than to memorize it. Other words translated as “meditate” in the Psalms mean to ponder and question thoroughly (cf. Ps 77:3, 6 ,12). To meditate is to ask yourself questions about the truth, such as: “Am I living in light of this? What difference does this make? Am I taking this seriously? If I believed and held to this, how would that change things? When I forget this, how does that effect me and all my relationships?” In every case, meditation means to use the mind intensely.” P. 148

If the beauty of Christ does not capture my heart and imagination then bad things happen

To behold the glory of Jesus means that we begin to find Christ beautiful for who he is in himself. It means a kind of prayer in which we are not simply coming to him to get forgiveness, his help for our needs, his favor and blessing. Rather, the consideration of his character, words, and work on our behalf becomes inherently satisfying, enjoyable, comforting, and strengthening. Owen insisted that it was crucial that Christians be enabled to do this. He reasoned that if the beauty and glory of Christ do not capture our imaginations, dominate our waking thought, and fill our hearts with longing and desire-then something else will. We will be “continually ruminating” on something or some things as our hope and joy. Whatever those things are, they will “frame our souls” and “transform us into their likeness.” If we don’t behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, then something else will rule our lives. We will be slaves. P. 178

A starter plan for daily prayer


Think of the privilege of prayer. Realize God is present. Ask him to help you pray.


Read a Scripture passage. Discern one or two truths you learn there, Choose the one that most impresses you and write it in a sentence. Now ask: How does this truth help me praise God? How does it show me a sin to confess? How does it show me something to ask God for?

Word Prayer

Now turn the answers to the three questions into a prayer-adoration, petition, and supplication.

Free Prayer

Pray about whatever needs are on your heart. Also spend time thanking God for the ways you see him working in your life and caring for you.


Take a moment to thank God and admire God for what he has showed you today. End with a note of praise. P. 254-255







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