Chapter 3: Prayer and Power

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.

Sermon accompanying chapter 3

Preached by Chris Band at Headington Baptist Church, Oxford on 6th October 2011
Download the study guide.

Questions

  1. “Prayer … depends as much on a grasp of God’s greatness as it does on the recognition of our own weakness.” [p.57] In what ways has our culture sought to close the distance on God by elevating ourselves and diminishing him? What impact might this cultural trend have on our approach to petitionary prayer?
  2. Read Isaiah 40:6-8, 15, 21-26. How does human nature contrast here with God’s being? How sizeable is the distance between God and us?
  3. Read John 1:3, Hebrews 1:3 & Ephesians 1:10. In what way in these verses is power also ascribed to Christ?
  4. Does God’s superior power negate our own power? Does his freedom to act undermine our own? Consider the example given in relation to the cross [pp.64-65].
  5. Read Isaiah 40:10-11 & Matthew 11:28-30. How do we encounter God’s power according to these verses? [pp.62-63]
  6. Read the paragraph beginning “But we mustn’t think …” [pp.63-64]. What experience of God’s power awaits those who wilfully and persistently defy him?
  7. In what way is prayer a means by which God shares his power with us? [p.66]
  8. Read the opening two paragraphs of ‘Is prayer powerful because it compels God to act?’ [p.67] Have any within the group been disappointed with prayer because they felt God had failed to keep his promises? What impact has this had either on their approach to prayer or on their understanding of scripture?
  9. Can God act in the world even if we don’t pray? [pp.70-72]
  10. Ask the group to summarise their understanding of the relationship between God’s power, our power and prayer. In what way does the gift of prayer help to bridge the gulf between God’s power and ours?