The newest book from Tim and Kathy Keller is The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. The Songs of Jesus digs into a beloved portion of Scripture to share daily devotions with corresponding prayers. It is Tim and Kathy Keller’s second book together (the first was The Meaning of Marriage).
Each day begins with a portion of the Psalms (sometimes an entire psalm, but never more than a dozen verses), a devotional thought of about 150 words, and a short prayer. These prayers, “should be seen as ‘on‑ramps,’ not as complete prayers. The reader should follow the trajectory of the prayers and keep going, filling each prayer out with personal particulars, as well as always praying in Jesus’s name (John 14:13).”
The Kellers recommend using the devotional three ways:
- The simplest way is to read the psalm and the meditation slowly, and then use the prayer to begin praying the psalm yourself.
- The second way to use the devotional is to take the time to look up the additional scriptural references that are embedded in the meditation and sometimes in the prayer.
- The third way to use the devotional is to journal through it while keeping three questions in mind:
- Adore—What did you learn about God for which you could praise or thank him?
- Admit—What did you learn about yourself for which you could repent?
- Aspire—What did you learn about life that you could aspire to, ask for, and act on?
The Songs of Jesus among other Devotionals (particularly Jesus Calling)
Why choose the book of psalms? The Kellers share their reasoning:
“Many find modern devotionals to be either too upbeat or too sentimental or too doctrinal or too mystical because they reflect the perspective and experience of just one human author. The psalms, by contrast, give us a range of divinely inspired voices of different temperaments and experiences.”
In addition to a love for the Psalter (which is like a swiss-army knife for our prayer lives), I have a hunch that at least part of the motivation behind this book was to provide a healthy alternative to the controversial, yet immensely popular devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
In Kathy Keller’s review of Jesus Calling, she called it “unhelpful and to be avoided” because Young writes from the first-person perspective of Jesus and admits to doubting Scripture’s sufficiency (in the introduction she states: “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.”).
Another critique was that Jesus Calling appeals too much to the experiential at the expense of the doctrinal—which is where the book of Psalms fits in perfectly as a book that so beautifully interweaves both rich doctrine with a wide range of human emotions. Keller’s review continues, “If you want to experience Jesus, learn how to find him in his Word. His real Word.”
The Songs of Jesus will lead readers to Jesus through His Word and through praying His Word back to Him.
My first thought as I flipped through The Songs of Jesus was, “This wasn’t what I expected.” Being a big fan of Tim’s writing, I found myself craving more Scriptural and cultural insights than the 150ish word devotional and 50ish word prayer can offer. This disappointment dissipated when I remembered the purpose of the book: to help readers meditate on the Psalms and pray them to know and experience Jesus. In other words, I was focused on the on-ramp instead of the highway.
The Songs of Jesus are a rich collection of devotions that are clear and straight to the point, getting to the heart of each Psalm and helping readers think through them practically and prayerfully. Diligent readers and those who journal through it will feast on the richness of the Psalter and rejoice as they behold and commune with the Savior who so faithfully embodied the psalms.
Don Whitney says in Praying the Bible that many Christians are bored in prayer because they pray the same old things about the same old things. If taken to heart and diligently prayed, The Songs of Jesus will fight against this boredom and fill our minds and hearts with fresh thoughts and prayers to our Lord.
I expect this volume to expand Keller’s already wide readership base by offering an accessible and top-notch alternative to Jesus Calling. While I typically don’t like the daily devotional format, I will keep The Songs of Jesus close at hand for my wife and I to sing and pray the songs of Jesus together.
Title: The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms
Author: Timothy and Kathy Keller
Rating: 5 Stars
Here’s a sneak peak inside the book at two of the daily devotions (click image to enlarge):