Tag: tim keller

Insights on Prayer

In his new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (if that subtitle doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will!), Tim Keller outlines a pattern for prayer. He suggests five elements to form a framework for prayer: evocation, meditation, Word prayer, free prayer, contemplation (240-262).

Keller is not saying this framework should be written in stone or practiced woodenly, but that does bring together necessary elements for a thriving relationship with God. If you’re a church leader, it would be wise to assess which of these elements need attention, not only in your own life but also in general in your own community.

I thought I’d share a few reflections on prayer that were triggered by this framework.

Prayers That Go for a Walk

A few years ago, I began praying the Lord’s Prayer every morning, personalizing each phrase. It has been wonderfully instructive. For instance, opening with “Our Father” has helped me ground prayer in relationship and not request. When my opening address to God is as “Father,” I am immediately reminded that I am “son,” his son. I haven’t earned my way into this relationship, nor can I disqualify myself from being heard by him.

However, I noticed over time, despite this rich sonship, I began to feel badly if I didn’t get all the way through Jesus’ pattern prayer. This would make me want to pray longer or, more likely, pray quicker. Keller reminds us that contemplation  is a time to sense God. Drawing on Luther, he notes that Luther described it as a time to “let his thoughts go for a walk” (251). When one thought stood out, Luther felt free to follow the Holy Spirit into it, and that here

the Holy Spirit himself is preaching and one word of his sermon is better than thousands of our own prayers…

This insight has brought me greater freedom when praying the Lord’s Prayer, but more importantly, encouraged me to follow the Holy Spirit more, to participate with him in prayer, and in freedom follow his leading in prayer. When our prayer is “on the clock,” it can be very difficult to get lost in God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. Allow yourself the freedom and joy of prayers that go for a walk.

Pray the Text

Before moving to free form prayer, Luther often found something in the biblical text as a basis for praising repenting, or resolving. People often struggle to know what to pray or what God’s will is. When we are moved to prayer with God’s word, we can have full confidence that we are praying his will (properly interpreted). Textual prayers are answered prayers. God loves to keep his word. When we “pray the text,” we not only gain confidence but also power. The Spirit works through God’s revealed word to accomplish his will in and through us.

Not too long ago I spent some time discussing public prayer with a group of elder candidates. Among other things, I encouraged them to pray the Word. It is important that our prayers are shaped by God’s word, and that God’s word shapes our church. I encouraged them to pray the Word into our church. If small groups and discipleship groups grasped this, it would unleash greater power in prayer. Why? Because God keeps his word, and delights to reveal his will through it. We are, after all, a Word-shaped people.

Experience What You Have

In Christ, we all have things–blessings–that we don’t experience (166-67). Prayer affords us the opportunity to experience those blessings, to encounter our theology so to speak. Keller points out that Paul frequently prays for churches to experience things they already have: “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” or “to know the love that surpasses knowledge” (see Eph. 3:14-19). There is knowing, and there is knowing. Prayer brings us into an intimate knowledge of God. Keller writes:

It is possible for Christians to live their lives with a high degree of phoniness, hollowness, and inauthenticity. The reason is because they have failed to move that truth into their hearts and therefore it has not actually changed who they are and how they live.

Prayer bridges the gap between knowledge and knowing. When we humbly seek God, and ask that we would experience what we already have, we begin to change, to encounter, to see the unseeable beauties of God and be floored. There are tremendous truths that need to be experienced such as: “fully loved, fully accepted” or “forgiven and free.” Ask God to allow you to experience what you already have in Christ Jesus.

For a brief time you can get Prayer at Westminster Bookstore cheaper than Amazon, plus your purchase supports a kingdom ministry instead of the Amazon behemoth. They also have one of my favorite books on sanctification on sale for 3.99.

City Renewal Resources

A City Renewing Church

These are exciting days in Austin City Life as we work out our vision to be a church that exists for the social, spiritual, and cultural renewal of the city with the Gospel of Jesus. This vision culminates in our mission to be a city renewing church, locally and globally. Our past two messages on Why Renew a City? and How to Renew a City have been very fruitful in clarifying vision, equipping for discipleship, shifting paradigms, deepening the gospel conversation, and promoting mission in our great city.

Resources on the City

I haven’t been alone in formulating this city renewing vision. Many great leaders, scholars, pastors, and urbanists have gone before me. I’m deeply grateful for their help. Right now, I’m about knee-deep in books about the city and discipleship. Urban studies, missiology, best practices. Here are some books I have found helpful. I have deliberately left out domain specific resources, i.e. books on poverty, creativity, economy, arts, and so on. These books have helped me better grasp the power and nature of cities like Austin.

The City: A Global History – Kotkin’s historical study of cities has become a modern classic. This short but dense work argues that all great cities combined three essential elements–the sacred, the safe, and the busy. Enduring cities have been cities with a strong spiritual-moral center, robust security and governance, and a teeming economy. He sprints through history with these lenses making it a fascinating read.

To Transform a City – This is an explicitly evangelical attempt to understand what it takes to transform a city. I had the pleasure of speaking with Eric Swanson at a conference and was impressed with his facility and experience with city renewal. Swanson uses the Lausanne aphorism to chart his approach to city renewal: The Whole Church, Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole City. It is littered with great quotes, insights, and ideas. He practices city renewal in Boulder, Colorado.

Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas – This is a very helpful book for locals, but also for people who live in Creative Class cities. Joshua Long is a professor of Social Sciences in Switzerland but lived in Austin for a number of years. He blend anthropological reflection, sociological analysis, economic trends, and geographic importance. He draws on the concept of topophilia (“sense of place”) to explain the unique blend of urbanization and deep resistance in cities like Austin. People in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Raleigh-Durham, Portland, and Minneapolis should not overlook this book.

Author of Weird City, *Joshua Long* will address Austin church planters at our next PlantR meeting. You won’t want to miss it!

The First Urban Christians – an academic treatment of the shift of early Christianity from a village based religion to a urban movement, particularly through the lens of the ministry and times of the Apostle Paul.

Cities of God – Rodney Stark does great sociology. This book traces the movement of early Christianity into its urban expressions and offers compelling reasons why Christians have historically been at the center of city building.

To Change the World -  This is an excellent sociological analysis of the polar ends of American Christianity (conservativism and liberalism) and their attempt to change the world through political power. Hunter avers that political power is the last thing that Christians should be using to change the world, and questions whether or not we should set out to change the world at all. His solution to this dilemma is a call to faithful presence of Christians in all realms of life embodying the message of Jesus in the new city commons.

Urban Tribes – a good look at the practice of community, commitment, and family in cities. Insightful, readable, distressing, important.

All Tim Keller’s Writings & Redeemer’s City t0 City Documents on the City

Q Conference 2010: Chicago

The Q Conference will be held in Chicago this year. The line-up looks great. I’ve highlighted some favorites. The Austin Q was stimulating, creative, and significant. I expect more of the same for Q 2010. Check out the line-up:

2010 Chicago Confirmed Presentations:

Putting a New Face on Photography | Jeremy Cowart, Celebrity Photographer
The Both/And of the Gospel | Timothy Keller, Pastor of First Redeemer Manhattan
Conversations on Being a Heretic | Scot McKnight Interviews Brian McLaren, Author
Responding to Our Fatherhood Crisis | Roland Warren, National Fatherhood Initiative
The Death of Christian America | David Aikman, Historian and Journalist
The Next Christians | Gabe Lyons, Q Founder
The Future of Education | Sajan George, School System Turnaround Specialist
Evolution of a Voice | Bryan Coley, Screenwriter
Being Provoked to Engage | Jo Saxton, Leadership Consultant
Muslim and Christian? | Buddy Hoffman, Pastor of Grace Fellowship Atlanta
The Church and the City | Charles Jenkins, Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Chicago
Recovering Ancient Practices | Phyllis Tickle, Author
Observing the Sabbath | Matthew Sleeth, Environmentalist
Don’t Eat the Food | Sean Womack, Brand Consultant
People of the Second Chance | Mike Foster, Founder of Ethur
Resetting a Creative Economy | Richard Florida, Sociologist
Collaborating in Community | Charles Lee, Ideation Strategist
Social Activism | Antonio Carlos Costa, Activist, Rio De Janeiro
Land of a Thousand Hills | Jonathan Golden, Social Entrepreneur
The Bible in Society | Q Panel
Greenlighting Reconciliation | Laura Waters Hinson, Filmmaker
Human Centered Design | David Blanchard, IDEO
Overcoming the Science and Faith Divide | Alister McGrath, Theologian and Author
Missionaries to America | Todd Hunter, Bishop, Anglican Church

Resources for Mercy & Justice

We pretty much got blown away on Sunday by God’s mercy. If you weren’t with us at Austin City Life, I encourage you to listen to the audio. We prayed, we wept, we sang, we repented, we hoped in the God of Mercy. Amazing. Here are a few practical resources for you to continue to live out a life of Christian mercy: