This is part of an ongoing series book study which complements the Thursday and Friday morning Men’s book study on prayer. Read the other chapter discussions here. Read along with us!
Last week, we discussed how we encounter God in prayer.
Over the past several weeks, we have been slowly warming to the possibilities of depth in prayer:
- We learned that God has implanted knowledge of Himself in every human being.
- We reaffirmed that He spoke through the prophets, His written word and especially when He called us through the Holy Spirit.
- We learned that through the theology of prayer that our Triune God is our Father, Mediator and indweller (Keller 83).
In Chapter Six, Keller throws us in the deep end with two veteran players. In less than twelve full pages our author unpacks Augustine’s and Luther’s personal views on intimate moments with God. This chapter is chock-full of deep and abiding truths from two masters of the discipline.
Until we have grasped the pitiful estate of our hearts, according to Augustine, we are not even ready to begin to pray. Augustine urges believers to rightly order our hearts. In doing so, we can then pray that we might be happy. But, do not let that happiness rest in your circumstances, rather let your joy be in the Lord. Once you have learned where your joy can be found, pattern your prayers after the Lord’s Prayer. Yet, he concedes that it is difficult to know what to pray during times of trial and persecution. He leans upon the Lord to know whether to pray for circumstances to change or for strength in the circumstances (Keller 84-88).
Luther leads us to the Lord’s Prayer as well. He encourages us to start with contemplation or meditation on a verse we have previously studied. He says to mediate on the section of scripture in such way that you pattern your thoughts around: instruction, thanksgiving, confession, and prayer. He warns us not to prattle off incantations, but to freely experience the scripture. After meditating in this way, Luther encourages us to pray through the Lord’s Prayer and though he gives examples, he admonishes us not to simply copy him, but speak our own words to the Lord. In doing this, he hopes we will hear from the Holy Spirit through scripture (Keller 89-96).
Questions for Discussion:
- In a way, Augustine’s recommendation for beginning to pray is to find a right ordering of a “disordered” heart. If you were to rightly order your heart each time before you pray, how might your prayers be different?
- When you “pray for a happy life,” according to Augustine, what does a happy life look like? See Psalm 27:4
- On page 88, Keller shows Augustine’s pastoral side as he writes a letter to a woman who had suffered greatly. Augustine offers that her sufferings have acted as a shield to protect her from the illusions (or sin) of self-sufficiency. What are you currently experiencing that feels like a curse, but could actually be a blessing that reminds you of your need for God? How might you pray differently about this in the future having read this chapter?
- Luther was careful to fence his thoughts and feelings during prayer in the corral of scripture. What do you do with insights during prayer? How should we faithfully discern inspiration during private devotion? What dangers exist for the believer in listening to these thoughts? What blessings are possible?
On your own:
In this chapter, Keller mention on page 91 that when Jesus taught us to pray, he did not say “My Father,” but “Our Father.” From this, he meditates on how we experience God in community. There is even community in the Godhead himself. In this next week begin a practice of praying through the Lord’s Prayer as outlined in this chapter. As you do, contemplate how you might grow closer to our worshiping community.