There are many times a day when others share with me the circumstances of their lives. Not all of these situations are positive. And I don’t mind them sharing with me (it’s part of the job of being a pastor). When they share with me…usually there is an expectation that as a Christian (and as a pastor) that I will pray for them.
And so the “Christianese” words flow from my mouth… “I’m going to pray for you.” And armed with the knowledge of their present status I will pray (when I remember…which is a good reminder to make note of important things to remember).
Here’s the thing… it seems like most of my prayers are reactive instead of proactive. And I know that if I am going to live a healthy life in Christ…there needs to be activities in my life that are not simply responding to the urgency of emergency. Certainly, these things happen. But in my physical life, I am trying to be more more proactive about my health… The same should be true in the arena of my heart, soul, and mind with God. The frequency of my prayer life shouldn’t be only in response to the amount of difficult situations that fall on others or myself.
So, here I am seeking to find the balance of a healthy practice of proactive life-saturating prayer. We’ve been looking at the topic of living Life In Christ over the past few weeks.
As we study the Scriptures, we see that Life in Christ is about a gracious identity from God which leads to a glorious outcome through God. This healthy identity will and should also have healthy practices with healthy implications.
We can see this application to prayer that overflows from a Life in Christ when we read various places from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Over this new year we’ve been examining the powerful words of this letter to discover the immense grace of Christ in and through the life of those who believe and the opportunity for those yet to believe to respond to Him in faith.
Let’s take a look at Ephesians 1:15-19…
15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
Now to gain understanding from the Scriptures… I encourage you to think about the Four Questions I address here.
So, what can we learn here in Ephesians?
We can take note of a few things here. The letter was written most likely as a circuit letter between 60-63 A.D. while the apostle Paul was in his 2nd (and final) imprisonment in Rome under the reign of Nero. He is writing to a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in the city of Ephesus. This is a church that Paul was continually receiving reports about their great loyalty to Christ and the display of their love to mankind. In this letter, Paul is trying to help the readers (listeners) understand their identity in Christ and the expected outcome of a disciple through Christ. He also wants them to understand the healthy practices of this life in and through Christ.
The practice of prayer certainly was something the Apostle Paul actively exercised. The same practice was being encouraged to the church at Ephesus and is still just as relevant today.
So let’s try to answer some questions…
Question #1 – Why should individual disciples and the church collectively be people of prayer?
- The Scripture shows that prayer reinforces the truth of our utter dependence and faith in God who provides for His people.
This leads to another question…
Question #2 – How can an individual disciple or the church collectively devote their faith in the sovereign provider to a healthy lifestyle of saturated prayer?
Here’s some answers to that question when we look at the writings of Ephesians 1:15-19…
I. By Being Thankful – v.16
- Paul said there was a greater sense of thankfulness in his prayers because of others.
- Because of what this church was doing, Paul mentioned them with gratitude in his prayers.
This leads us to some spiritual examination.
- Are my prayers so consumed with “me” or is it for others beyond their difficult circumstances?
- Is there a greater sense of thankfulness in our prayers because of others?
- Is there a greater activity of praying to God in gratitude for others that God Himself has divinely and strategically placed in our lives?
- Am I proactively praying for the goodwill of others and remember their goodwill seen in the world due to their loyalty to Christ and their love for mankind?
Paul certainly made this practice evident and encourages the healthy activity to be continued in Christ’s church (individually & collectively).
II. By Deepening Thoughts – v. 17
- Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have something that could only have originated from God, was only sustained by God, and overwhelmingly flourish through God.
- Paul wanted these disciples of Jesus to have their mindset focused on the person of Christ and the plans from Christ. For this to happen they would need the wisdom and revelation that comes only from Christ. The same is true for us today.
So this leads to some other questions about the activity of prayer in our lives today and how it matches the biblical prescription of this practice.
- Am I praying for godly, biblical wisdom that deepens my thoughts beyond the earthly for the eternal? This means that I’m not willing to live on petty cliches or by an earthly scheme. To pray for this is to ask God to change the way we think, react, and live…well before anything difficult happens.
- Am I praying for a godly perspective on how to live life today with a Christ-like focus on what’s ahead? This means that my prayers for God to shine light on His path would be obedient to His word and His will for our lives. It would be a healthy practice to ask God to transfix our focus to His God-sized vision for our lives rather than just our daily perceptions.
Paul knew that this prayer could only be answered by God but it was also the disciple’s responsibility to receive that which God so graciously reveals. It is also the responsibility of the disciple and the church to be obedient to that which God so graciously provides.
III. By Refining Trust – vv. 18-19
Paul was praying for the heart, soul, and mind of each of these believers to be awakened, transform, and repurposed for God’s directions to be accomplished. So these are the things that he asks God to do for the church…
- to awaken the focus of their hearts so that they could truly see Him and His plan
- to refine their hope for what God has in store
- to refine them for the purpose of His calling on their lives
- to help them trust in the provision of God to accomplish His vision… (btw… provision –> pro-vision…just sayin’)
- to help the church to trust in the very power that is held by the person of Christ.
So when I think about how this relates and is applied to the lives of disciples today… we must once again examine the practice of prayer in our lives by asking these questions…
- Are we praying for God to awaken & refine our trust in Him?
- Are we praying for God to refine our hope in Him to trust His plans?
- Are we praying for God to refine us for the purpose of His calling & trusting His direction?
- Are we praying for God to refine us in our trust for His provision?
- Are we praying for our trust in His power to be refined?
These are questions in need of answers if we are going to worship God by responding to Him appropriately and live a life of worship that also reveals Him abundantly.
Life in Christ is about a gracious identity from God which leads to a glorious outcome through God. And a healthy life should have healthy practices with healthy implications.
This is the implication of this practice…
A life with saturated prayer to the sovereign provider is a healthy reminder of Christ’s salvation plan.
And every disciple of Christ could use and be fueled for living by more of this.
By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory. Continue reading