MASTER'S SEMINARY JOURNAL

BOOK REVIEW

Beyond All You Could Ask Or Think. How to Pray Like the Apostle Paul


By Ray Pritchard
Chicago : Moody (2004). 172 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
15.2 (Fall 2004) : 267-267

Each of six chapters expounds one of Paul’s prayers. In sequence these are discernment (Phil 1:9-11), knowledge (Col 1:9-14), enlightenment (Eph 1:15-23), power (Eph 3:14-21), endurance (2 Thess 1:11-12), and stability (2 Thess 2:13-17).

The book is fast-reading, simple, often illustrated, and refreshing to laypeople, students, or pastors. The author is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary who also has a Doctor of Ministry from Talbot School of Theology. He has been Senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Illinois since 1989, and writes from a practical, simple pastoral perspective. The book explains key points in Paul’s prayers, and briefly surveys highlights.

Pritchard encourages deliberate praying for others (p. 19) and with others (20). The book focuses much on basic ideas, but gives little actual guidance in ways to apply such prayer. Some points are strong, and some are weak, needing help.

Surely rephrasing is needed. Rather than saying that love is a matter of luck, as he does when he says that luck is being full of God’s love (31), he should have focused on God’s grace as the source of fruit (Gal 5:22). He tabs John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart “a fine book” (66-67), a very misleading appraisal since that book on finding true manhood has shortcomings, e.g., many misrepresentations, misinterpretations of Bible passages, misguided theology, frequent lack of clarity, a Hollywood overload, questionable pop psychology. Pritchard sets up the shortsighted either/or that the glory of heaven is not streets, gates, river, or angels, but Jesus (86). It seems better to say that in the eternal city God’s glory centers in Christ, yet extends to all persons and things. Pritchard is inconsistent with his point when he uses the illustration of coming home and feeling “home is precious to me because of the people I love who live there.” This will be even more true of heaven, and still in harmony with Christ’s having greater glory.

Good points abound. One, on Col 1:9-14, is in wanting to be engulfed in God’s will, not just to have help to make a tough decision (34). Pritchard is pertinent about yielding life’s control to Christ to be shaped by His purposes (66). The book is helpful regarding Christians’ desperate need to pray to God for strength, as in Eph 3:16-17 (96-97). However, the author’s use of this good purpose does not catch Paul’s focus on interceding for others’ strengthening. When the point is made that Paul in Eph 6:20 does not ask prayer to be freed from prison but to be bold to preach even in prison (98), the book loses sight of Paul’s desire for prayer for his deliverance as stated elsewhere (cf. Phil 1:20; Phile 22).

Another valuable idea is that “filled” (Eph 3:19) means dominated by God (105). Among other helpful comments is God’s ability to act beyond men’s ability (Eph 3:20) to meet any need (112, 117-21). A brief summary of Paul’s prayer texts ends the book. The book has a great title and is a catalyst for things to pray and for uplift. A light, short, quick book, it has moments, but not nearly the help on Paul’s prayers found in D. A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).