Monday, July 20, 2009

Praying for Faith in the Church Ephesians 3:14-21

Year B, Season of Pentecost Proper 12, Ordinary 17, Pentecost 8, Between July 24-30,

Reading Ephesians 3 this week I see a great intercessory prayer for the church.

Ephesians 1 is filled with praise for the church and what God is up to in the church. Ephesians 2 has exhortations to live together. But Ephesians 3 is different: this is a real live prayer for the church in Ephesus and its happening here for us to read and hear. Lots more instruction is going to come for the young church later in the letter, but for just a moment focus in and pray.

Pray with humility. The prayer in Ephesians 3 grows from hard learned humility in the presence of God, with a knee bent in honor of the All-mighty. We humans undervalue God's mysterious and life-altering presence in our lives. We sinners really want to be gods all by ourselves. We sinners want to construct the church in our own image and likeness rather than in the image and likeness of God. This prayer starts from the opposite place, with a humble request for God to strengthen the church rather than anyone individually.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:14-17 NRSV)

Faith is a mysterious work of the Spirit. It happens in one person at a time but it moves us into community. Faith isn't our property: its a gift that this writer asked God to help nourish in others that they would grow in faith too.

Pray it hope: Other forces (most notably the old Enemy) seek ways to destroy faith; but this prayer asks the Spirit to work, in us, in order that Christ might find a dwelling place inside of our lives. Faith comes first as the Word from outside looking for a place in our lives. God's word searches for places to take root and to grow. It starts with a Word but it doesn't stop there. The spirit comes to nourish it and tend it. Storms and droughts will come, but the Spirit will come too, and wonderfully and mysteriously we will grow in faith ourselves.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


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