Each of us struggles to know what, how, and to what end we should pray. What method should we use? Does experience trump knowledge or should order rule our practice? Does the true path to prayer lie in the a life of resting in God, or is prayer a wrestling match where we seek God’s coming Kingdom regardless whether we feel His presence?
Tim Keller invites us to understand the tension between resting and wrestling in his book, Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. He says, “We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together…I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology” (16, 17).
Keller identifies two types of prayer in which modern scholars have taken up camp, but he encourages us to live in the tension of these types. He says, “We should not drive a wedge between seeking personal communion with God and seeking the advance of his kingdom in the hearts of the world” (5).
Communion centered prayer (resting) is typified by the promise of peace and continual resting in God. Glorifying God and resting in the theological truths of his nature make up the bulk of this kind of prayer. See Psalms 27, 63, 84 and 131.
Kingdom centered prayer (wrestling) is usually illustrated through struggle and looks to God’s Providence, seeking obedience to his will instead of focusing on His being. See Psalms 10, 13, 39, 42 and 88.
Our challenge is to not take up residence, as many modern scholars have done, in one camp or the other. Rather, Keller calls us to allow these two types of prayer to grow up together, like “twin trees… One stimulates the other” (17).
Questions for Discussion:
- Toward what kind of prayer do you gravitate: Communion (resting) or Kingdom (wrestling)? How has this affected your prayer life?
- Pages 14 – 17 deals with what John Murray called “Intelligent Mysticism.” This seems to hold the tension of resting and wrestling in prayer. What does intelligent mysticism mean to you? How is this a Biblical understanding of prayer?
- Keller uses Flannery O’Conner’s prayer life as an example of someone struggling with how to pray. O’Connor was Roman Catholic and much of her fiction deals with fundamentalist Protestants. What can we learn from her struggle?
- If you were to combine resting prayer and wrestling prayer it might look like:
- Is it possible to rest in our wrestling? What could that look like in our daily prayer life?
On your own:
Tim Keller outlined four changes to his private devotional life, which helped him grow in understanding prayer:
- He began reading and praying through the Psalms daily
- He put time of meditation as a transitional discipline between Bible reading and his time of prayer
- He prayed morning and evening
- He began praying with greater expectation
Commit this week to beginning or rekindling one of these disciplines as a way to grow in your prayer life.
Next Week: Read Chapter Two The Greatness of Prayer