This past 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 vain tears. (You can guess whose.)
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 new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Dutton Adult), Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, invites readers to systematically learn to pray. Although he claims there are both right and wrong ways to pray, Keller admits that he, like us, has struggled with prayer. In fact, it wasn’t until midlife—after the catastrophic events of 9/11 and family health crises—that he found his bearings.
“I was barely scratching the surface of what the Bible commanded and promised regarding prayer,” Keller said. So he began to make changes to his prayer habits. He added to his established devotional regimen evening ...