Book Review – Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson

I consider that if a book read leads one to develop a sermon series over it’s content, then said book has had a significant impact. D. A. Carson (Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), through this updated edition, provided both an illuminating and challenging book to stimulate us all in prayer. Praying with Paul, considers Paul’s major passages about his prayers for his readers and how what Paul prays for helps us with our prayers today.

None would argue that our weakness in much of evangelicalism is that we lack fervency and frequency in prayer. I can testify to my own struggles with this in my own life. And while there are many how-to-manuals on prayer, there is a lack of exegesis of Scripture of actual prayers and what they can teach us beyond the Lord’s Prayer. Carson, in what were originally messages given, leads us to consider a number of issues in which we should be praying today.

Carson considers Paul’s prayers as vital to be understood for our personal growth and the growth of the church today. He tackles such concepts of a framework of prayer from 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, developing a passion for people in prayer from 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, overcoming hurdles in Philippians 1:9-11, praying for power in Ephesians 3:14-21 and Romans 15:14-33. In each, Carson considers the text, rooted in its historical and grammatical contexts and shows how Paul’s patterns in prayer can lead us to much more effective praying. He ends each section with some helpful questions for reflecting on the material, as well as a helpful example of his own prayer for spiritual renewal. A study guide, by The Gospel Coalition, is also available to help make reading the book even better (available here).

As I said, if a book leads to significant change, then it is an effective book. Carson’s volume has lead me to consider prayer being a more serious thing in my life and in the life of my church. On that note, based upon his own breakdown of a sermon-series on it (p. 208), I plan to lead a series in Paul’s prayers in our church culminating in a week devoted to prayer. So, Carson has challenged me from Paul’s prayers to be a more effective prayer. I pray that it would be true in my life and in yours. Take up and read and be both challenged and encouraged by Paul’s prayers!

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