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Ephesians 1:15-23

At every level, whether local or worldwide, prayer is the church’s heartbeat.  Just as working on a healthy heart contributes to a healthy body, devotion to prayer contributes to a healthy church.  While Paul does not prescribe how to pray as he opens his letter to the Ephesians, his insight regarding prayer gives the church body, both then and now, challenging words.  

In looking at Ephesians 1:15-23, there are three themes that readers can take away, each of which have great importance for spiritual formation in personal and community life.  First, we must pray.  It is a significant and consequential action that we have to take seriously!  Paul starts out by stating that he prays for the Ephesians by thanking God for their faith and love.  He also prays for them to know God more through wisdom and an ever-deepening understanding of the hope, blessings, and promises they have in Christ.  Finally, he prays that they know the true power of God that is at work in them.

Paul’s prayer should stir questions in our hearts, especially as we look at the violence, strife, and seemingly fruitless arguments that occur around us on a daily basis.  Paul wrote that he does not cease in giving thanks for the faith and love of the Ephesian Christians.  This statement should challenge us to ask if we, in an authentic way, are also giving thanks for the faith and love of those around us.  Even more, Paul’s words should really challenge us to ask if we are doing the same for Christians from different traditions or political parties who we disagree with on various points.  

In applying Paul’s words, we end up living with a primary and constant perspective of prayer and thanksgiving for the work of God in other people’s lives, even Christians we disagree with.  The result of this type of mindset is a genuine demonstration of the kind of Christian love that will draw those who do not know Christ into the church.  Paul’s first reaction is prayer; our first reaction to other Christians should also be the kind of prayer Paul writes about, ultimately contributing to a healthy church heart.

Second, prayer is essential in helping us understand our identity in Christ.  Through prayer, followers of Christ gain wisdom and revelation of who God is.  The Spirit works in our hearts, renewing us so that we understand the hope of new life that Jesus Christ offers, the blessings he gives in his kingdom, and the incredible power of God at work in us.  The power that resurrected Christ is the same power that resurrects our hearts, bodies, and minds out of sin and its consequences, and into new life!  Prayer imprints the sovereign God’s powerful love for us onto each and every one of our hearts.  This love, in reaching our hearts, regardless of the condition of our hearts, changes them.  It is only in knowing Christ that our hearts can be healthy; prayer is the avenue that we know Christ and understand the pulse of his kingdom.  In both speaking and listening to God, we experience his love and become more confident of an already solidified, yet new, identity.

Lastly, Paul reminds us that with Christ’s power, we do not pray in vain.  The implications are two-fold.  Jesus Christ is the final authority; we are not placing our faith in failing institutions or bureaucrats, but God himself.  Paul states that Christ’s authority is above any other.  Nothing else can ever come close!  As we pray, this should give us comfort, confidence, and faith.  The God who demonstrates his love for us is the God who has the power to do so.  

Additionally, Paul reminds us of the power of God in us.  When we acknowledge and follow Christ as our leader, we are capable of impacting the world around us only because of the incredible strength of God’s love within us.  Our actions and words that reflect God’s kingdom, even if they seem like the smallest mustard seed, have more power than we may initially think.  Don’t take it for granted.  Again, as Paul demonstrates, the foundation of those words and actions is in the very real power of prayer to the very real power and love of God.

As you preach this week, take the opportunity to speak about prayer and how to incorporate prayer into daily life.  An example could be a prayer journal.  Many times, it is a discipline that we overlook or take for granted that our congregations are doing.  Allow Paul’s words on prayer to challenge and convict both you and your congregation to not only pray constantly, but to also to shape how you pray.  Know that you are praying to the ultimate authority on all matters.  Be willing to pray like Paul prayed for the Ephesians, with deep love for God, his church, and the people of this world.  Allow your hearts to be transformed by the incredible power of Christ’s love through prayer.  Unceasing devotion to prayer is vital and it equals a strong, healthy heart for Jesus Christ’s church.