Paul's Prayer Life
We are still studying prayer here at Grace Bible Study, and we have moved on from prayer under a covenant as God’s earthly people Israel utilized and have moved into prayer as the Body of Christ under Grace. There’s a good chance you have never heard prayer taught this way or even considered the scriptural fact that prayer is not the same now as it was in the Old Testament and the Gospels. God’s earthly people Israel were promised many earthly things. Under their covenants, Israel knew “if” they did certain things “then” God would do certain things for them because God had already obligated himself to do those things. Many of the things God obligated himself to do for Israel are the very things that fill the prayers of Christians today. I challenge you to read your Sunday School prayer sheet or think about your personal prayer time and split the list into two columns. The first column should be anything related to earthy items such as healing, sickness, surgeries, travel plans, financial situations, job searches and so on. The second column should be anything else that is of a spiritual nature. There’s a good chance you will see that we tend to fill our prayers with earthly things. For the vast majority, this will come as no surprise because this is how we were taught to pray. I would challenge you to do a study on Paul’s prayer life. The Bible is crystal clear that Paul is your example in this age of Grace, and this includes how you pray. At Grace Bible Study, we are working through a spreadsheet of all Paul’s prayers. Does this sound like work? It should because this is how Paul instructed you to study! I entered all of Paul’s prayers and several other verses where Paul mentions prayer into the spreadsheet and then assigned each one a topic. Basically, they all fell into just a few topics: Instructions, Thanksgiving, Intercession, and Requests. Using the Filter tool in excel, we are going through each topic verse by verse to see exactly how the Apostle Paul prayed. From this exercise, it is easy to see why many Christians struggle with unanswered prayer. We are so clearly directed to follow Paul’s example in scripture, but our prayer life looks nothing like Paul’s prayer life did. Our prayer life is filled with earthly things because of the Calvinistic and Covenantal slant we have been taught. What is clear is that we are not praying according to God’s will. God’s will is found by rightly dividing your Bible according to the instructions that are directed to you in scripture. Instead we run to and fro all over the Bible finding any prayer promise from any book and claiming it for ourselves. This is exactly why Christians see many of the things they pray for go unanswered. We are not Israel nor are we “spiritual Israel” like many theology books will tell you, so we need to stop praying Israel’s promises. Learning to pray according to God’s will for this age gives you peace and a new understanding of how to have a proper prayer life, or you can wait a few more years, and there will be 10 more books on prayer at the Bible book store all teaching you about Israel’s prayer promises. Your prayers will not change what God is doing or not doing in this age. Wouldn’t you be better off learning what God is doing now so you can pray according to his plans?
Some people might have seen the Acronym MAD and wonder what this is all about. You might have also read or seen the phrase Mid-Acts and wondered what this really means. MAD stands for Mid-Acts Dispensational” This is an important qualifier because lots of people consider themselves dispensational to some degree. Many churches might even have the term “dispensation” in their statement of faith. Unfortunately, it seems like the much of Christianity does not know this term, nor can they with any clarity explain its use even though it is a Bible word. A basic meaning of the term Mid-Acts refers to when the church started. Much of Christianity today believes the church started in Acts chapter 2. I would challenge you to read Acts chapter 2 very closely twice and see if you can find anything that starts in this chapter. The only reason most Christians believe the church started in Acts 2 is because some person taught them it did. The only reason they were taught this is because most Christian colleges and Seminaries teach it. You can’t read the words alone in Acts chapter 2 and find a church starting anywhere in the chapter. What we teach here at Grace Bible Study is to give God the benefit of the doubt and believe his words over what the professors teach. Nothing starts in Acts 2, but Paul clearly is the first person to explain the Body of Christ made up of everyone including Jews and Gentiles. Yes, there was a church already present in Acts chapter 2, but you are not part of that church. Acts 11:19 clearly shows that this church was not ministering to or even evangelizing the Gentiles. What scripture does clearly show is that Jesus called the Apostle Paul in Acts 9 and told him clearly that he would have a ministry to Gentiles dispensing the gospel of the grace of God. Paul is the first person in scripture to introduce the church which is the Body of Christ. Paul is the one that explains Israel’s fall and diminishing and the new creature made up of all that believe. I completely understand the temptation to hold on to traditions like the Acts 2 beginning of the church. In this tradition, there is security because most of the books, college courses, commentators, and teachers say Acts 2 is the beginning of the church. All I’m asking you to see is the words of the Bible itself DO NOT say this. I could easily write my next 5 blogs with rock solid reasons why the church you are a part of now in this dispensation could not have started in Acts 2. The fact is that most Christians really are not concerned with where the church actually began. When people put the beginning of the Body of Christ before the last offer of the earthly Davidic kingdom by Peter, it caused an unmeasurable amount of confusion in Christianity today. This could be why there are hundreds of “churches” in every city now. The church, the Body of Christ, is mystery information that Jesus revealed to Paul. Paul was saved in Acts 9 hence the term Mid-Acts. This is the scriptural position that the Bible actually teaches. It is tremendously important to know when the church that you are a part of began, so you can have a proper understanding of the Bible.
Rightly Dividing Prayer
Last week we started studying prayer here at Grace Bible Study. If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you have already heard plenty of lessons, sermons, and devotions on prayer. There is no doubt you have probably purchased or been given prayer journals or prayer promise books. A trip to the Bible bookstore reveals scores of books and devotionals on this subject. If you go to a traditional denomination, you have probably never considered studying this subject according to your Apostle Paul’s instructions. Rightly dividing prayer is a practice that is altogether foreign in teaching about prayer today. Have you ever stopped to look at the references in your prayer promise book? Have you ever read the context of all the prayer “promises” you are taught belong to you? Most people would agree a Christian should pray according to God’s will. Why then is the prayer promise book you are reading filled with verses given to God’s covenant people Israel? The Bible is clear that God has an earthly people with earthly promises and a heavenly people with heavenly promises. I understand this does not “preach” well, because we would rather ignore all the references that clearly refer to Israel and claim all those promises for ourselves. How can you sell a prayer devotional that explains the truth that all those promises you are claiming don’t belong to you? Rightly dividing the Bible as we are instructed to applies to every subject in scripture. Rightly dividing also clears up all the struggles between the denominations about those subjects. Every prayer book must include a section on “Unanswered Prayer.” Why I ask? If you read the prayer promises clearly in your prayer journal, you would see that Jesus clearly says just the smallest bit of faith can move mountains. Why then do we need the section on unanswered prayer? Here’s why, every Christian struggles with many unanswered prayers. How could the prayer to heal a dying child be ignored by God? These are the times when the prayer books fail miserably to explain unanswered prayer. These are the times when the prayer journal provides no help whatsoever. These are the times when the Christian’s prayer life seems to be stopping at the ceiling. A foundation built upon Pauline truth, and the purpose of prayer in the dispensation of Grace answers these questions. These are not the answers you want to hear, and these are not the answers you want to believe. I understand you want all those promises of healing promised to Israel at times like this. You can understand prayer, and you can pray according to God’s will. You can also understand how a Christian is to pray today as a member of the Body of Christ, but you will never know any of these things until you learn to divide the promises given to God’s covenant people, and the promises given to God’s heavenly people the Body of Christ. Calvinism has infiltrated every facet of Christianity but it shows up mostly in your prayers. You pray for guidance then look for circumstances in this sin cursed world around you for the answer. Maybe instead of looking around you, you should look into God’s word because his will is clear when the Bible is rightly divided. A Godly prayer life if found written in God’s word by following the pattern left for you by your Apostle Paul. A life of continuous unanswered prayers are in your future when you continue to follow Israel’s prayer promises.
Steve Schoenberger is a student of the Bible and the teacher at Abundant Grace Bible Fellowship, A Mid-Acts Dispensational Bible church teaching the Bible rightly divided according the revelation of the mystery delivered to the Apostle Paul