Ephesians 3; Ezekiel 8-9; Isaiah 41
“I’ll pray for you” is a standard response among Christians when they share problems or concerns with each other. Sometimes, the person who says that really means it and you know that they’re praying. At other times, you know you’ve been dismissed, that the person said, “I’ll pray for you” instead of saying, “Will you please stop talking about your problems.” Prayer is such a vital part of our lives as Christians that we should always consider it a privilege to pray for others. We should also realize that when others pray for us, they make a spiritual investment in us. Because of that, I’m careful about the requests that I make for prayer. I pray and talk with God about a lot more things than I ask others to pray for.
Paul recognized the importance of prayer. While he didn’t deal with a lot of specific prayer requests that came to him via text or social media, he prayed for spiritual strength and growth for all the churches he worked with. When I read through his prayers, I marvel at their depth. Read this prayer for the Ephesian church. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)
This prayer takes us all the way through life! It begins with the “glorious riches” of God that allows us to follow Him in faith. It continues with the belief that we must be strengthened in Him and in fellowship with His people. It calls on us to grasp, as well as possible, the depths of the love of Christ, and, that understanding the depth of God’s love for us, we might be filled all the way to the top with the experience of His presence. That’s my understanding of that prayer, but the God we serve is so glorious that where my understanding falls short of the depths of His love and grace, God continues to fill in the gaps. He doesn’t look at me and decide “He only understood 50% of the prayer, I’m only going to give him 50% of the blessings that I had planned.” God’s blessings pour out on us fully, in spite of our limited understanding.
Reading Paul’s prayer here is convicting. When people ask me to pray for them, and I do pray for them, it’s more like, “God bless this person and take care of their problems. Amen.” If you took that long to pray for people the way Paul did, you could be praying all day long. Not that praying all day would be a bad thing, but I’ll be honest – I have things to do! And isn’t that a sad commentary when we realize that we all have so much to do that we don’t spend any serious time in prayer, let alone all day. We need to start spending serious time in prayer…well, at least I do, I don’t really know about you. One of the things I’m going to do is include this prayer from Paul as part of my daily routine as I pray for my church, and the church staff. I’ll take the prayer requests of friends and family more seriously, although I’ve been doing some better on that already. Ultimately, though, prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind so that He agrees with me. It isn’t about getting enough people praying so that God will have to respond as if He were dealing with a change.org petition. Prayer is about renewing our relationship with God. It’s a reminder to me about the needs and concerns of others. In many cases, when I’m able to do something, it’s a call to action. God’s call to pray for someone is often a call to get engaged in the life of that person.
Lord, how easy it is to say a quick prayer for someone and then forget about their need. Help me to pray that they understand the depths of Your love for them, and then use me to show Your love.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.