Urgent Advice for Seminary Graduates

Editors’ note: 

For more reading on long-term faithfulness in ministry with practical wisdom from veteran pastors, see Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime from The Gospel Coalition.

In this video, see what Tim Keller wants to tell seminary graduates about their prayer lives.


The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

What I would say to seminary graduates is, your prayer life is much more important than you think. What’s really hard and the reason I’ll say this two more times here is they expect people to say this is that it sounds perfunctory; it sounds trite. They’re thinking, Of course I’ll pray. It’s not simply that prayer makes God real to you, but it is also the main antidote to all kinds of pride.
I would also say in addition to just a prayer life in general, they need to learn to do something that I’m afraid you’re going to have to find old books in order to know how to do. It’s something that the older writers used to called “mortification.” I don’t have a better word for it, and of course the word “mortification” means “to kill.” But the way people like John Owen and others would talk about mortification was that you need to not only pray in general or repent of your sins, but you need to start looking at your heart to see the kind of sins you tend to fall into. What are the attitudes of heart, what are the idols of the heart, and what are the particular ways of looking at life that tend to lead to your besetting sins or your characteristic sins. Mortification is not supposed to beat yourself up. It’s actually not about asking forgiveness for sins, but it’s really trying to prevent those sins. It takes a certain amount of examination and self-examination which you do before the Lord but also with other people, especially a spouse if you’re married or a very close friend.
So have a vibrant prayer life and learn how to do mortification, and you need to start right now if you’re coming out of seminary. Those are spiritual disciplines, you might call them (some people don’t like that term, but I do). And you need to begin practicing them right away.