Thursday, May 26, 2011

Prayer

Do you have a prayer list?  If so, what's on it?  If you are like me, and most others that I know, it is filled with the personal and physical needs of self, family members, friends and others you have come into contact with.  And it will likely include some whose salvation you are praying for.  All of that is well and good, but how do you pray for a believer who does not have cancer or the flu, does not have any problems at work or at home, whose dog hasn't run away and dad is alive.  How do you pray for one who is faithfully serving God and loving others around them?

In several of Paul's letters he gives us an example of how to pray for each other and Ephesians 1:15-23 is one of those.  Paul prays first that the recipients of this letter would be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they could know God better.  And I do want to know God better, both intellectually and relationally.  I want to know more about who God is, what he is doing in this world and what he has planned for me.  And I also want to have a more intimate relationship with him.  I am not satisfied with where I am in my knowledge of God.

Paul also prays that the 'eyes of their heart' would be enlightened.  Paul is wanting his readers to see some things, not with their physical eyes, but with a spiritual discernment.  The three things he specifically mentions will all enable them to be more effective and stand firm in the Lord's service.  Having eyes focused where they need to be will help to prevent discouragement and side trips on the journey he has set before us.

The first of these three things is that we would 'know the hope he has called us toward'.  God has called, or invited, us to an escape from a coming destruction and into an eternal future with him.  That is currently a hope for us since it has not happened yet.  But hope is not just a wish; it is a 'favorable and confident expectation', something we are confident will take place in his time.  What a difference it can make in my life when I know what God has invited me to experience with him.  How the appeal of this world should fade and my desire turn toward him.

Paul gives an example of what knowing this hope can do for you in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  Here Paul compares the light and momentary troubles he is experiencing with the eternal glory that awaits him and finds that there is no comparison.  All of the ship wrecks, beatings and abuse that he suffered in carrying out the Lord's commission to him are nothing compared to the hope he has.  If we had that vision of the hope he had called us to, what a difference is would make in how we lived today.

The second thing Paul would have us know is 'the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints'.  In the Old Testament, Israel's inheritance was the land that they lived in.  It was given to them by God because they themselves belonged to God.  But for New Testament believers there is no promise for a land of our own or for earthly riches.  Rather we have a glorious inheritance that awaits us beyond this life; a place in the kingdom of God.  Membership in the kingdom is something we have now, but the glory to be revealed in us is still an upcoming event.  Why strive for the riches of this world that pale in comparison with the glory of the inheritance that awaits me.

In Romans 8:15-17 Paul tells us that as children of God that we are heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ.  Our inheritance is not just a little pittance or after thought.  Rather we will be joint heirs with Christ.  I don't know just what to make of being a joint heir with Christ, but at the very least it tells me that what awaits is going to be pretty special.  What is there is this world that is worth comparing with the inheritance that awaits.  Why should anything in this world lure my attention away from that.

The third thing on his list is that we would know 'his great power for us who believe'.  God's power is directed toward us, shaping and enabling us, conforming us to the image of Christ.  That same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him above all things is also at work in my life.  Knowing that God's power is at work within should keep me from discouragement and thoughts of "I can't do that" when God calls me to do something.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

To know God better, and to have a better understanding of what he is doing within me and what he has prepared for me; this was Paul's prayer for other believers.  And it is also my prayer for you as well as for myself.  What could be better that a closer and more effective walk with our Creator and Lord.

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Updated 2/28/2012

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