The Desiring God blog recently posted the transcript of an interview with Tim Keller about his new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. I have not yet read the book, but the second question in the interview and Keller’s response captured my attention. I am delighted that Keller is highlighting the value of praying the Psalms. What he describes is similar to my experience over the last several years of working through the Psalms in order to pray them and be shaped by them in praying. Here is an excerpt:
Question 2: Praying the Psalms
Your new book is clear: a profitable prayer life is impossible without solitude, but it’s also impossible without God’s word. You explain a time in your life when you were driven by desperation to pray, and so you opened the Psalms and prayed through them. Explain how you did this and what you learned from this season.
I am glad to talk about that. I came to see that the Psalms are extremely important for prayer. Perhaps that is because I read a book some years ago by Eugene Peterson called Answering God. He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary — that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms. So that was the first step. I realized I needed to do that, but I didn’t know how.
Then I spent a couple of years studying the Psalms. …
I worked through all 150 Psalms and wrote a small outline and a small description of what I thought the Psalm was basically about, and key verses that I thought were useful for prayer. Using nine-point font, I basically broke out all 150 Psalms on about 20 pages, which I now use in the morning when I pray.