What is the most urgent need in the church of the Western world today? If you were to ask others this question there would likely be many different responses. D.A. Caron contends that what “we most urgently need is a deeper knowledge of God.” His book Praying With Paul addresses one of the most foundational steps that we should take in knowing God is through prayer – “spiritual, persistent, and biblically minded prayer.”
There are many great books on the topic of prayer. It’s almost overwhelming to know where to begin because the topic is so vast in nature. How does this book differ from the hundreds of others that call us to become a better praying husband, wife, or parent? How does it stack up against the multitude of books that tell us how many steps it takes to become better at praying?
Praying with Paul takes us exegetically through the prayers of Paul in the New Testament and although it is deeply theological it majors on the practical. D.A. Carson takes us through the very heart of Paul’s prayer life by examining not only how he prays but who and what he prays for. The book begins with the honest confession of how prayer has been very much neglected in the Christian life.
Carson explains “When it comes to knowing God many of us constitute a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs – and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment, without rightly understanding where true happiness and fulfillment lie. We are not intoxicated by His holiness and His love; His thought and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, and too few of our priorities.”
The pastoral heart of Carson shines brightly throughout this book and as he works through the many prayers of Paul, taking us through the framework of prayer, the petitions of Paul and his heart to pray for others. The reader is challenged with piercing questions throughout the book and at the end of each chapter that will cause you to consider your own prayer life.
This book is more than just a theological treatment on prayer it is written to help people in the practical every day twists and turns of life. Every chapter builds upon the next, creating a foundation that nurtures, instructs, admonishes, rebukes, encourages, and challenges the reader. Carson reminds us that “If you are serious about reforming your prayer life, you must begin with your heart. “ This book asks us the right questions to help us see the issues of our heart and it helps us address them.
Chapter Seven – Excuses for Not Praying will likely speak to every heart, and if you are hesitant to read a book on prayer I would start directly with this chapter. Carson gives us a Gospel centered focus when we try to excuse our prayerlessness confronting excuses such as “I’m too busy to pray”, “I’m too sinful to pray”, “I don’t feel like praying”, among many others.
Praying with Paul is a book that will help you to overcome the everyday hurdles of spiritual dryness, a lack of faith and belief, and it confronts our excuses for not praying. One of the things that spoke to my heart was in how the author compares our praying in relation to our loving others.
“If we are to improve our praying we must strengthen our loving. As we grow in self-sacrificing love we will grow in intercessory prayer.” – D.A. Carson
Praying with Paul is biblical, theological, passionate, and practical. It has helped me to grow in my understanding of Paul’s heart for the church and his passion to see the Gospel go forth and flourish among the lost. Most of all, it has given me a greater desire to pray with a Christ-centered love for others. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to pray biblically, who struggles to know what to pray for, and who wants to grow in their love for God.