Praying for the Church

Just a reminder, you can interact with this lesson on revmkg.wordpress.com or on the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Facebook page.  I would love to hear your insights and questions this week.

How often do you pray for your church?  What about the church down the street?  On the other side of town?  In today’s passage the Apostle is writing to the believers in Ephesus, a young church led by a young minister.  He details his prayer for these believers, also providing a tremendous description of God’s empowering involvement in the believer’s life.

READ:  EPHESIANS 1:15-23

 THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER

We often rejoice when someone comes to faith.  We celebrate those who have committed their lives to Christ—newborn believers, fresh in faith and their walk with God.  There is something beautiful about their shining eyes, hopefulness, and desire to serve God and God’s people.  So it was with the Paul, as he heard about the Ephesians.

 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  Ephesians 1:15,16.

How long do we pray for and rejoice with young Christians?  The day they commit themselves to faith?  Perhaps for a week or two?  The prayer before us here shows us, first of all, when we should pray—always!  “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (v 17).  In another epistle we are told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).   Unfortunately, our prayers are often consumed with our own needs and hopes, with only passing mention of others.  Furthermore, when we do pray for others, often those requests are for physical rather than spiritual needs.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

1.  Besides your own family members, is there anyone for whom you continue to pray and give thanks, having heard of their faith in God?  Is there anyone for whom you continue to pray as he or she moves through the stages of spiritual growth?

2.   In times of tragedy and crisis, how can we model Paul’s example by giving thanks for those showing love for all God’s people, i.e., caregivers, first responders, etc., attending to those who are in need?  What should those prayers include?

3.  It is too easy to watch someone commit his or her life to Christ and then walk away, forgetting about them during the discipleship process, forgetting to pray for strength and hope and continued faith.  Our responsibility in the Body of Christ is to pray for all of God’s people, to pray continually, not just for their bodies, but especially for their spiritual needs. How can we change our prayer times to include this important facet of prayer?

PAUL’S REQUESTS FOR THE EPHESIANS

Paul’s prayer list, then, gives us a pattern of praying for spiritual fitness and vigor when praying for the church.  Let’s look at these individually.

1.   The Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better (v.17)—Paul prayed, always, for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.  No matter what your denomination, every believer needs ever greater fullness of the Spirit.  Although we receive the Holy Spirit as a sign and seal (v. 1:13), Jesus also said he would send the Spirit as a guide, a Comforter, for us (John 14).  As we open our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s presence in our lives, we are given increasing “wisdom and revelation.”  We can study commentaries, read books about
the Bible, etc., but without the wisdom and revelation that comes through the Holy Spirit, it is only information.

Any relationship without deepening knowledge will stagnate; it is only continue to learn about one another more deeply that the relationship becomes stronger.  So also with faith:  It is not enough to just “know God” in salvation.  We need to continue to seek more of God as we grow in faith.  That your eyes may be enlightened in order that you may know . . .   Paul prays that the believers’ eyes might be opened by the Spirit.  We seek revelation, not the kind that “puffs up” but the kind that reminds us how awesome is our God.

2.    The hope to which he has called you and the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people.  American Christianity, to some degree, has become a self-referring process.  We pray for more wisdom, for more love, for more of the Spirit, but often, our prayers stop right there.  Once we receive these things, we are content.  Know this:  No gift of God is meant to stop with the initial receiver.  As the churches received letters of instruction from the apostles, those letters were then passed on to other churches for their edification and growth.  In the same manner, as we receive from God, we are to share those gifts, those revelations with others.

The hope of our calling?  Perfection in the likeness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; I John 3:1-2).  Becoming like Christ means  much more than just me.  It means that I will speak like Christ, share
like Christ, love like Christ.  Paul prays that we will know that hope, becoming like Christ in all things so that . . .

You may know the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people (v. 18b).  It is God’s will that we not only see spiritual growth in our own lives, but also in those around us, in all of God’s
people.  Paul prays that you and I might have the spiritual vision to pray, as he prays, and experience the joy of seeing that same awesome growth and power in those around us.

3.  His incomparably great power for us who believe.  Do you ever feel like living the spiritual life is hard, that it is almost impossible to make the right choices, to “walk the walk”?  Sometimes
we shrink back from this calling because we are concerned with how people will see us if we fall, if we fail.  Once again, we have our eyes on ourselves.  Every follower has had this problem, including Paul, which is why he prays for us to receive God’s power, because God has placed all things (including pride) under Christ, who is our head and our fullness (v. 22,23).

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.   What are the three ways Paul describes this power from God?  How does that relate to our spiritual lives today?  What problems are you experiencing today that need to be put under the power of God?

2.  Do you feel hopeful about the calling to be Christ like, or does that frighten you?  Is the calling to serve and know God a positive thing or something that you would rather avoid? 

As the song says, “We are called to be God’s people.”  Not only that, we are called to make disciples.  Paul prays for our equipping, and then we are called to be a part of equipping those who come after.  How will you pray?

Blessings,
Mary Kay Glunt
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661
revmkg@sbcglobal.net

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