Chapter 6: Prayer changes the World

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?

Sermon accompanying chapter 6

Preached by Chris Band at Headington Baptist Church, Oxford on 29th November 2009
Download the study guide.

Questions

  1. ‘Lord, find me a parking space!’ How do the group regard this prayer? Can our prayer requests ever be too trivial for God (see Philippians 4:6-7)? What does the New Testament regard to be our highest priorities for prayer [p.112]?
  2. ‘Lord, please heal them!’ Would the group limit divine healing just to ‘supernatural healing’ or would they also identify God’s involvement in the healing mechanisms of the body and in the ethical interventions of the medical profession? Read the Andrew Steane quotation [p.113].
  3. ‘Lord, please heal them!’ Is it always God’s will to heal the sick? If so, how would we interpret Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 4:16? Read the paragraph beginning, ‘The fact is that …’ [p.114].
  4. ‘Lord, please heal them!’ On a large sheet of paper, get the group to list the various forms of sickness and disease from which Jesus healed people. Do they hold anything in common? How, in James 5:14-16, are we told to pray for the sick? Read Matthew 13:53-5. In what way did a lack of faith hinder divine healing in the town of Nazareth?
  5. ‘Lord, please may they become a Christian!’ Do any of the group have unsaved family members or friends that they have been praying for over a very long time? How has their experience been? Have they ever felt tempted to give up?
  6. ‘Lord, please may they become a Christian!’ In what ways might God be answering our prayers for the unsaved even without their discernible commitment to Christ? If needed, read the paragraph beginning, ‘What then do our petitions …’ [p.121].
  7. ‘Lord, give us a sunny day for the church BBQ!’ Do the group believe that God meticulously controls the world’s physical processes or rather that he has granted them their own measure of ‘freedom’?
  8. ‘Lord, give us a sunny day for the church BBQ!’ In the light of Romans 8:20-22, what is the impact of sin on the freedom and blessedness of creation? What does this ‘bondage’ and ‘decay’ look like from our perspective [see p.124]?
  9. ‘Lord, give us a sunny day for the church BBQ!’ Read the paragraph beginning, ‘Yet the freedom or bondage of creation …’ [p.124]. What confidence do these examples of divine intervention give us in praying for God’s involvement within the world’s natural processes, including the weather?
  10. Conclusion Is it possible that at times our manner of praying is inconsistent with God’s manner of working? Does this matter, and if so, why?