In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Ephesus was an ancient city on the Western coast of modern day Turkey), he is writing to encourage the local congregation. The early church had lots of things going against them, from outside pressures to internal divisions. As Paul writes to help the church through a difficult time, he also makes praying for them a priority. This is his prayer:
I pray that out of [God’s] 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 3:16-18
If you have the time, read this prayer through a few times. As you read it, imagine that Paul is praying it for you. Even though it was written for a congregation long ago on the other side of the world, God still uses it to bless his people here and now. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, this blessing is for you.
Hearts on Fire
I have chosen this prayer as our theme for the fall because it speaks so strongly to what God wants for us as Christians. As we are formed in the love of God, we need to find a way to move that knowledge from our heads into our hearts. God wants his love to be a living truth that sets our hearts on fire and becomes the source of our strength and life. We will keep coming back to this verse because it is full of strong spiritual truths to get us through the challenging months ahead.
I also bring up this prayer as an invitation to look at your daily rhythms of prayer. These spiritual blessings need to be nurtured in your life. They are for you, but they can easily dissipate in the face of busyness and difficulty. How can we nurture them? By attending to the relationship that we have with God in Jesus Christ. Like any relationship, it needs to be cultivated and encouraged. One of the most important ways we do this is through a life of prayer.
Prayer is a Way of Life
Remember, prayer is far more than just ‘talking’ to God or reading a list of prayer requests. In fact, we will see later that intercession is just one of nine parts of prayer! Even more than that, prayer is a way of life. It shapes a committed life of discipleship. Through it you will grow closer to God, grow in inner maturity, become a stronger and more compassionate member of the community, and know the blessings from Paul’s prayer, no matter how hard life turns out to be.
How to Pray: Getting Started
I want to come back now to your life of prayer with two simple questions: when and where? Attending to our relationship with God takes both time and location. The irony of course is that for many of us, one or both of those are in short supply. We can certainly pray on the fly, but deeper prayer takes intention.
When are you going to pray during the week and where is it going to be? I have a couple of places that I go to for prayer. They are comfortable, and I usually have a hot drink with me, either coffee or tea. Whatever you choose, remember these wise words from Pete Greig:
After decades of night-and-day prayer, I have come to believe that 99 percent of it is just showing up: making the effort to become consciously present to the God who is constantly present to us.– Pete Greig