Praying Ephesians 1:15-20

Praying the very words of Scripture is an amazing way to bring depth to your prayer life. Read the word of God, think about it, meditate on it, soak in it, then pray…read some more…lather, rinse, repeat. (I guess that’s a reference that only those with a head full of hair may get…)

Don Whitney has written well about this in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, in his chapter on prayer.
“…there should be a smooth, almost unnoticeable transition between Scripture input and prayer output so that we move even closer to God at those moments.”

This morning, even though it wasn’t on my daily reading play (I strayed from routine! Ah!) I found my mind thinking of Ephesians 1:15-20 as I was praying:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

(Ephesians 1:15-20 ESV)

What is Paul praying for here? And what can we meditate on and pray for as well? That the eyes of our hearts, in other words that we would know and sincerely understand in the core of who we are – we would know with certainty:

– the HOPE to which God has called us, as believers and followers and worshipers of Jesus. Jesus brings hope beyond what is going on today. Hope of real lasting heart change to glorify him and hope for tomorrow to be with him forever free from sin and death.

– the RICHES of this glorious INHERITANCE of the saints – what we have now as our assurance of God working in us to make us more like Jesus by his grace for his glory and our ultimate good…and also our eternal home with him in Heaven. Also there is the sense here of God enjoying us, how precious his children are to him.

– the immeasurable greatness of His POWER toward us who believe. Christ has done the work perfectly, it is completed on our behalf. The Holy Spirit now resides within us giving us power to live God-pleasing lives.

Why is all this possible – because of Jesus – what God “worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly places.”

Prayer and the Psalms

In reading Psalm 119 (half of it) this morning, I quickly realized it is a great Psalm to read and pray your way thru it.  Praying through Scripture isn’t as complicated as you may think…

  • v5 “Oh that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!”  There’s a verse that has immediate “prayability”  – ex. ‘Lord God today (let’s focus on one day at a time here!) let me be faithfully consistent in obeying you, in doing things that please you.’ It kinda goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway –   In order to know more of how to live a life that pleases God, we have to know God’s word, read it daily, soak in it…but dare we think that just ‘obeying his decrees’ is what it’s all about.  Obedience comes from our identity as children of God, we don’t obey in order to become children of God.  Children of God are those that believe in whom God has sent – Jesus – our reconciler.   In all things, in all situations…we never get a pass from obedience in glorifying God – that is our primary purpose – always.
  • v6-7 show the blessings of obedience – we will ‘not be put to shame‘ and we will ‘praise you with an upright heart‘ – obedience protects us from running off the path and getting into sin and incurring shame.  That harsh word we shouldn’t have said, that lustful thought we shouldn’t have let our minds dwell on – or much worse.   Sin brings shame always – obedience to God brings praise with a clear, joyful, peaceful (upright) heart.   Remember too, that when we do sin, there is forgiveness and grace because of Jesus – but may be avoid sin, and pursue truth.

We need the help of the Holy Spirit to (1) want to obey God’s word in the first place – may he renew our hearts to have the desire to follow him steadfastly and (2) the endurance and perseverance to do consistently and “steadfastly!”   The Psalms encourage us to pray for these things, let’s press in.

Jesus in the Garden – It is Enough

In reading Matthew 26 and Mark 16 this morning, I spent time meditating on Jesus in the Garden right before his arrest, beating, and eventual crucifixion.  It’s an amazingly intimate picture of Jesus’ humanity.  I saw a few things that jumped out at me:

  • Jesus goes to a secluded place to pray
    • [do we run to God or away from God in tough times?]
  • He takes his close brothers with him, and takes his inner circle with him closer still
    • [do we have trusted brothers/sisters? do we let them in?]
  • He confesses to them that he is “very sorrowful, even to the point of death”
    • [do we confess to them when we are struggling?]
  • Jesus prays three times an honest prayer from the depths of his soul
    • [do we pray, repeatedly, honestly?  how is the nature of our prayer?]
  • Each time Jesus presents his request “If possible, remove this cup from me” – he then speaks truth to himself – “Not what I will, but what you will”
    • [A message God continues to beat into my head – despite what society has been telling me for 41 years, it’s not about me and my self-esteem, and personal happiness – the Bible says it’s all about God.  Jesus models this perfectly, even being obedient to the point of death (Phil 2); how much more so should I be seeking the Father’s glory and will in much smaller matters today?  In his glory is the ultimate happiness anyway!]
  • Jesus continues to ask the Father in repeated requests, pouring out his heart, and then speaking truth to himself – despite the fact that we see no answer from the Father.
    • [Do we continue in prayer, even when there seems to be no answer?  Jesus knew the answer – press on, for God’s will and purpose, not mine.  Prayer is a powerful demonstration of our dependence on God and in that he reminds us of the truth and what we need to do for Him…sometimes even without a verbal answer, the Holy Spirit directs our hearts as we seek God’s purposes]
  • Jesus comes to a resolution – “It is enough, the hour has come.” He is seemingly at peace with the situation, as he has poured out himself to God in prayer. I’ll bet that there was some serious self-discipline going on there.
    • In our lives, our feelings cannot drive the bus.  Even if we don’t “feel” resolved we know the direction we need to take – take it.  Do it.  Discipline yourself to move on deeper into what God wants you to do, do not wait for the feelings to come and then do it.  Move ahead in faith. Press into God in prayer.  Preach the truth of the gospel to yourself and get on with it…(Phil 3:12-14)
  • The situation didn’t change – God certainly didn’t take away the cross (“the cup”) – but Jesus pressed on.
    • Many times the situation may not change, but our outlook on the situation will, perhaps sometimes only by pressing in and doing what you know in your heart God wants you to do, even if you don’t feel it.  Some of us may be facing really bad situations – but God is bigger than all of them.
Update, as things would have it, I caught up with Pastor Mark Driscoll today and this was his the subject of the sermon…good stuff: