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Finding Our Prayer Bearings

In a review of Timothy Keller’s book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Jen Michel writes:

One summer, my husband and I wanted to teach one of our youngest sons, age 6, to ride his bike. His twin brother, Colin, had already mastered the skill and was nearly keeping up with his older brother. But despite our cajoling—“It’s fun to ride a bike!” Andrew could not see the merit of potentially skinning his knees, and our attempts ended in his vain tears.

Then suddenly, in early August our little boy outgrew his fears. Nearly instantaneously, the mechanics of balancing, steering, and simultaneously pedaling became almost easy. The fears and tears dissolved, and Andrew forgot that riding a bike had ever been hard.

When it comes to prayer, most of us feel clumsy. We don’t recall someone running alongside us, shouting instructions as we learned. Instead, most of us found our balance by a hodge-podge of imitation and experimentation. Once we’ve learned to ride a bike, we can be sure we’re doing it right. Can anything remotely similar be said about prayer?

In his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Timothy Keller invites readers to systematically learn to pray. Keller asserts that prayer depends on both grace and effort. He gently reminds us, there are no perfect prayers or perfect pray-ers. He says, “All prayer is impure, corrupted by our ignorance and willful sin.” We should try and yet can fail at prayer—an encouraging piece of news, when we remember that grace is there to sustain us.

As Keller concedes, “[Sometimes] you won’t feel that you’re making any progress at all, [and fellowship with God] maybe episodic.” But when your prayers are lifted toward a God of grace, at just the unexpected moment, you find that you know how to pedal, and that you are headed toward home.

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