Bless: Praying the Mission

Listen to a sound recording of the talk

Ephesians 3 14-19
Talk 1
We are reflecting on blessing, or generous speaking and living , as part of our Mission! We recognised last week that blessing and generosity, start with the heart. Not rocket- science but heart surgery! God is the heart surgeon, the source of transformation. So how do we let that happen? Today we look at how we connect with God: prayer and blessing. We begin with how to pray for ourselves.

“Because of this” (verse 14, same as in verse 1) literally means “Through the grace of this”… an unusual expression! And in this case the cause is grace. Eph 2. 19 says “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,” and Eph 3. 13 says “through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Through the grace, favour, joy and beauty of what God
has done, I pray.

Paul is praying to the Cosmic God whose grace makes non-Jewish outsiders into fellow-citizens; to God the Father of all (Jew and non-Jew) from whom all (Jew and non-Jew) get their names. We’re praying for a work of the Cosmic God. His love and grace reach all people. Hold that thought.

Paul is praying for the Working of the Spirit. Paul knows we have the Spirit. We are blessed with every spiritual gift in the heavenly places. We are marked with the promised Holy Spirit… (Eph 1.13). Yet Paul isn’t averse to praying that God will give us the Holy Spirit. (Eph 1. 17) There is always more!

Some of us may want to say “I received the Holy Spirit when I became Christian” or maybe “We were baptised in the Spirit five or ten of forty years ago and spoke in tongues.” And I want to say, “Big deal. What is the Holy Spirit doing in your life today?”

Paul prays that God will take the deposit of the Holy Sprit in their hearts, and strengthen them (meaning make them strong enough to win) with power. The following good things result from that….

Paul can pray for the presence of Jesus… in your heart. Jesus does his heart surgery from the inside. “Heart” in the New Testament is never the muscular pump that moves blood around the body. It is always the bit inside us where thinking, feeling and deciding happens.

“Jesus in your heart…” Have you asked Jesus to dwell in your inner life? If you haven’t I encourage you to do that. But when you do, he comes to be in charge. He comes to what belongs to him. You know what would be daft? What if Pam and I went on holiday and invited Allan and Marnie and the girls to come and live in the manse, look after the dog, while we are away.
The we come home. We are welcomed. There’s a hot meal on the table. But then I go into my study, and there’s our bed, our wardrobe, as well as all my books. It’s a bit crowded in there! And Allan explains, “as there’s only two of you and four of us, we thought you don’t need so much space.” And not only that but I have to listen to Marnie’s choice of music, and about 9.30 Allan’s tells me “right buddy, it’s time you were in your bed”. I’ve come home, but I’m not in charge! Jesus dwelling in your heart puts Jesus in
charge.

Paul is praying for understanding and experience of who God is and how God loves. “That you may have power to grasp…” And “power” here means “being fully able.”

Understanding : rooted and grounded in love, you may grasp the breadth, length, height and depth… of what? Of the Cosmic God, that’s what. The breadth, length, height and depth of the amazingness of who God is. The cosmic God is the God whose love is for everyone.
Experience : that you may know the love if God. It’s not enough to grasp, we have to know. Paul isn’t just talking about head knowledge: he’s talking as a Jew, about knowledge by experience: about “Yadah” knowledge.
The love of God is the breadth and length and height and depth. It is the profoundest thing… it is the Cosmic God at work! If we understand the Cosmic God and know his love by experience, his love drives our behaviour.

So, how to pray for your Church? How to pray for yourself? How to know the transforming experience of the heart of God, for people? How to feel Father’s heartbeat in your heart?
Pray, for the Spirit to come. Pray for Jesus to live in you. Pray that you may be filled with all the fulness of God (Eph 3. 19). And what is God like? Love! To be filled with God is to be filled with love!
Pray to know the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love. If you dare!

Talk 2…
We pray for God to touch our hearts with the breadth and length and height and depth of who he is and how he loves. But how to pray for others? We have “Thy Kingdom Come” beginning on Thursday 30 th May. How to pray for five people? How to pray for our neighbours, our families, our town, our nation?

We have ideas:
• Pray “for revival.”
• Pray “for the Churches to be full.”
• Pray “Bring them in Lord”

Paul did pray for salvation: For people who were just “not getting it” (Israel as it happens, see Rom 9.30-33), Paul says “my heart’s desire and prayer to God is that they may be saved” (Rom 10.1)

Praying blessing: But Paul also said “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2. 1-4) Prayer for our world should be part of our life together,
and this echoes Jeremiah 29. 7 where God’s people, exiled in a foreign land, and desperate to get back home were told “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Praying the Kingdom. We are taught to pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done.” What’s that going to look like? Salvation for sure. But blessing, healing, justice. Praying these things into our community.

But is this just a waste of time? A nice gesture from a sleepy church to a needy world? But well-night impossible?

Tom Wright, Fife’s resident celebrity NT Scholar, suggests a wee exercise. We’re going to do it together, now. He says “read verse 20 carefully. Then
think what God might do through you – as a community, you as an individual. Now reflect on the fact that God is perfectly capable of doubling that, trebling that… so you would look back at this moment and wonder how you could be so short-sighted.”

 © Gilmour Lilly May 2019
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