Praying with Paul (Workbook)


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“What is your church’s greatest need?” asks Brian Tabb & Don Carson (the authors of the Bible Study: Praying with Paul). Perhaps your church is struggling financially, the numbers are dwindling or there are massive pastoral issues that need to be sorted out immediately. But is that your church’s greatest need? If we run the local church like a business, wanting it to grow economically and popular, that is dangerous. The church’s greatest need is not to be known as affluent or well established; the most important thing for the body of Christ is to be always connected to God. In order for the church to be fresh and in clear conscience connection with God, it has to be in communion with its maker, which can only happen through prayer.

In their Bible study on “Praying with Paul” Tabb & Carson brilliantly refocuses our hearts on prayer. They wet our apatite to hunger and thirst for God as the Apostle Paul was in his prayer life given for us in the epistles. In praying with Paul, we learn a lot about who the Trinitarian God is, what the gospel has achieved for us and how we can address God in Prayer meaningfully.

Here are three things that stood out for me from this Bible study. (A) God centred Prayer life, (B) Framework of Prayer, (C) Power in prayer

God centred Prayer life:

We live in an age of anthropocentricism (humans as the centre of the universe), even us as believers we do tend to put ourselves first and this also happens in our prayer life. Tabb & Carson gently show us how we ought to follow Paul in his prayer life being God centred. In his letter to the Thessalonians, the church was facing persecution as well as some ideologies that challenged their eschatology. Now, it is very interesting how Paul responds in prayer to the church’s situation. He does not get despondent instead he prays for the church and the prayer is God centred (1 Thessalonians 5: 23 – 28), it is worth observing this prayer how God (note the bolded parts) centred it is; there are a few prayers of Paul similar to this, but let’s just note this one for now.

23 May God himself the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our  Lord Jesus Christ.  24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Commenting on this prayer, Tabb & Carson point out that “Paul’s confidence doesn’t rest on the church’s valiant efforts to pursue holiness and godliness but in the faithfulness of God to finish what he starts.” Here it is clear that God is the one who initiates, executes and sustains what he has planned before the foundations of the earth. In Paul’s mind nothing can be possible outside God’s doing. So, in our prayer life be it at church or in our private time, it would be wise if we were to follow Paul’s way of praying. Getting this Bible Study guide will enrich and deepen your Bible knowledge and your love for Jesus. Your prayers will also be God centred instead of praying self-centred prayers that are limited to the here and now.

How do you start your prayer and how do you finish it? The next time you pray, just be aware how many times you mention “I” (meaning you, not Chris Thwala) and “God.”

The Framework of Prayer:

Framework of Paul’s Prayer is what Tabb & Carson have also observed in this Bible Study. It is a helpful framework to use in our prayer life, it will help us to be clear minded that everything it is about God, not about us. Here are three things that are usually found in Paul’s framework: (I) thanksgiving, (ii) prayer for growth, (iii) petitions.  For thanksgiving it is usually a heart of gratitude for the gospel growth or the fact that God chose that particular church to be his eternal people. For gospel growth, Tabb & Carson assert that this is mainly based on the status of the Christian they already possess, so in praying for growth, Paul wants Christians to live out their true identity in Christ. For petitions, it is of course any cries that burden us; Jesus does invite us to cast our burdens on him. Paul himself does encourage to bring everything to God in prayer. But my personal experience in my prayer life, Petitions take precedence instead of thanksgiving and Christian maturity.

This point on Framework has helped me and I’m sure you would be helped in studying all Paul’s prayers in this Bible Study, as to how you and your church can have meaningful prayer time which you have a framework for. We must have a goal in our prayer life; the goal of the Apostle Paul according to Tabb & Carson is that “Jesus’ name maybe glorified in us and that we may be glorified in Christ.” Is that your goal when you pray; is that part of your telos in your framework of Prayer? This Bible study will indeed help you to get the point of being clear about a helpful framework and its goal.

Power in Prayer:

What is this all about? Well, with no surprise as we continue with Paul’s motif, absolutely not focusing on us but on God. There’s power in Prayer. Tabb & Carson make the following observations from Paul’s heart of prayer: (I) God is sovereign (pg. 91 – 96), and (ii) Paul’s unshakable confidence in knowing God’s immeasurable power (107-112).

In our Prayer life we need to have our faith awakened to the fact that God is sovereign, that means he is in control and powerful; there’s nothing that catches God by surprise. So, in our petitions when praying for a new job, good health and church growth in numbers, we need to remember that it is all in God’s hand. He will do what is good for our salvation, whether the church grows in numbers or not, he is still powerful. Do we pray on the basis of  firm faith that God is sovereign? This Bible study shows us from Paul’s prayers that God is sovereign in every situation, be it the church is persecuted or growing, he is Lord of all and in charge.

Paul in his prayers does not only show us the seemingly tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, he also praises God for his power and prays for the church that they may have an understanding of this immeasurable power. We don’t pray to a deity who is limited, no we pray to the omnipotent, omniscience and omnipresent God. Following Paul’s example in having that confidence in our prayer will make us a people who are joyful because of the subjective confidence anchored on God’s amazing power manifested in Jesus Christ our Lord. So, the power in prayer does not derive from us, but from God. I warmly commend this Bible study to all believers from different walks of life. Why? Because we all want to grow in our knowledge of God and want to deepen our relationship with him, that can only happen if we are in constant communication and deep communion with our Father.

This Bible study will help you and your church (a) To have prayers that are more biblical than prayers that are self-focused, (b) to have a deeper meaningful prayers that have structure, and (c) to grow in your gratitude towards God, loving people as you pray for their growth and to be mission minded church.

“Our prayers reveal what we believe about God and what we really value and desire.”
Tabb & Carson.






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