Study Guide and Audio SermonsBelow is a per-chapter study guide that you can both browse online and download to print out. The full study guide can be downloaded here.
A short introduction to the study guide and how to use it.
In Chapter 1 we examine the issue of whether God is less involved in the world than we might wish. Does the gift of free will mean that he himself is more restrained? In what way can we expect God to respond powerfully to prayer? Four specific questions are considered: Can God protect me and my loved ones? Is prayer just about God changing me? Should I seek to be the answer to my own prayers? And, does God know my future?
In Chapter 2 we examine whether God has already predetermined everything that happens and consider what consequences such a view would hold for petitionary prayer. Does prayer make more sense, or less, if God is in total control? What’s the point of praying if God’s will is going to happen anyway? Is prayer really just about God changing me?
In Chapter 3 we will consider the relationship between divine power and human prayer. How is God’s power experienced in the world today? In what way is the gift of prayer his means of sharing power with us? We also consider whether prayer somehow compels God to act and whether he is free to act in the world without our prayers.
In Chapter 4 we pose the question, ‘can prayer change God?’ Beginning with the encounter between Moses and God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32), we explore the way in which God is able to alter his plans in response to our prayers. But we note that this ‘divine flexibility’ is rooted in the stability both of God’s unchanging character and his unchanging purpose to make us like Christ.
In Chapter 5 we explore the way in which prayer changes us. By looking at a number of unanswered prayers from scripture, we conclude that sometimes God’s will runs contrary to our own. However through wrestling in prayer, he is able to reshape our understanding, our emotions and even our own will.
In Chapter 6 we consider the way in which our prayers change the world. We focus on four popular prayers, each time examining the key issues that underlie them: Is God interested in trivial requests like prayers for parking spaces? Is it always God’s will to heal? Can God save my loved ones if I pray with enough persistence and fervor? And will he grant us a sunny day for the church BBQ if we ask him?
In Chapter 7 we explore whether prayer has any limits. Has Jesus really promised that ‘whatever we ask’ in prayer will be ours? Using the analogy of a banker’s cheque, we discover that: the promises about prayer are not automatically payable to all Christians; the ‘amount payable’ is ultimately up to God; and it is Jesus’ signature, not ours, that is to be found at the bottom of the cheque.
In Chapter 8 we take comfort from the fact that God himself joins with us in the endeavor of prayer. The Holy Spirit not only prays for us but also aids us in our own practice of prayer. Jesus also intercedes for us and has enabled us, through his death and resurrection, to approach God in his name. And the Father himself longs to hear and answer prayer.
In Chapter 9 we consider the vital importance of praying alongside others. Seven reasons are given as to why private intercession must be accompanied by corporate prayer: praying together is the example of scripture; it increases our faith; God responds favourably to prayers offered in unity; praying with others enriches our understanding; it helps us to better discern God’s will; it galvansises the church to action; and finally, praying with others means that we will actually pray.
In Chapter 10 we explore the fact that prayer itself is a spiritual battle. What does it mean to ‘pray against the powers’? How does prayer help us to overcome the evil strongholds in our own lives and in the lives of others?
In Chapter 11 we examine the role that faith has to play in effective Christian prayer. What, exactly, is the ‘mustard seed of faith’? What does Jesus mean when he tells us that faith-filled prayers can move mountains? How much faith, or what type of faith, is needed to see God respond? And does an absence of faith positively hinder prayer?
In Chapter 12 we discover just how important persistence in prayer is, if we want to see our requests met. We will consider Jesus’ own teaching on this subject, notably the parables of ‘the persistent widow’ and ‘the friend at midnight’. We also examine the spiritual logic that lies behind the need to persevere.
In Chapter 13 we discover just how important earnest desire is for effective prayer. Is prayerlessness a consequence of a loveless heart? What does the discipline of fasting say about the vital place of desire in prayer? In what way can God’s own desires transform and deepen our own?