I had something of a realisation this morning as I was firing off a quick text message to my wife. My first draft read “I hope today isn’t too stressful for you” – as parents of a teeny tiny little baby, there are many reasons why the day might turn out to be pretty hard work. Then I remembered the Bible study we did at church the other week on Ephesians 3:14-21, looking at the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church. Paul’s prayer could have read “I bow my knees before the Father and pray that he would stop bad stuff happening to you and that your life would be stress-free and straightforward”. Thankfully he didn’t, and what a rebuke to me that has been:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
It’s generally fairly easy to spot the more crass forms of the Prosperity Gospel when it rears its head: the idea that if you obey God then he will abundantly bless you right here and now. But I realised that it’s all too easy for the same spirit to creep into our prayers without even realising it. How often do we treat God like a genie whose sole purpose is to make our lives easier?
So what would it mean to resist this kind of “Prosperity Prayer Life”? What would a more Ephesians 3-style prayer look like? In the end I decided to send this to my wife: “I hope you know God’s grace through the challenges of today”. God’s desire isn’t to make our lives as easy as possible. God’s desire is to make us more like Christ, and he will use the struggles and the stresses of each moment to achieve it. Like gold, we are refined through the fire, not by sitting around on a comfy sofa.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that through everything, they might be given supernatural grace to more deeply understand God’s love for them. How much richer our prayer lives would be if we shared that same desire for one another! Next time you’re wondering how you can pray for me, feel free to pray Ephesians 3. It may not be what I would have asked for, but it’s certainly what I need!
If you’re a PrayerMate user, why not create an “Ephesians 3” index card that appears at the start of each session, reminding you how you could be praying for each of the people that you’ll be praying for that day? To do this, create a new category, make sure that it is “Pinned” so that it appears every session, and change the order of your categories to make sure your new one is at the start of the list. Add a single subject, and perhaps you could copy and paste the passage from Bible Gateway.