We have spent time already looking at Ephesians 1:16-19 and 3:15-16. Let us continue with 3:17-19 which states "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power 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, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (NRSV).
Whew! What a mouthful. Paul loves those run-on sentences. He gets so excited with what he is praying that he can't stop. His infectious joy overflows at the inclusion of Gentiles in the body of Christ. (As a Pharisee, I doubt Paul ever thought to see such a thing.) So his prayer is that, since they have come to faith, Christ dwell in their hearts and that Christ's presence in them ground them in love for others. This love for others should be deepened by coming to understand the breadth, length, height and depth of God's love which without revelation is unknowable. He has already prayed for them to have this revelation as we saw in 1:17. Really, this prayer in chapter 3 is a continuation of the prayer in chapter 1.
So how does this lead us to pray? It seems that we should pray for a greater knowledge of the depth of God's love. It's a love that never runs out, never gives up. And, if no one has told you this today, let me say it now: God loves you.
#Paul #Prayer #Prayers #Revelation #Ephesians #St.Paul
For John one of the marks of a true Christian is love. God is love. Jesus laid down his life out of love. We should love one another. And what is this love? It is more than a feeling; it is an action. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:16-18).
The early disciples lived this out. We read in Acts 2:44 that "(A)ll the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." Today we find it hard to fathom that this can or even should be done.
For Reflection: We who are fortunate may have no first-hand experience of poverty. We may only see pictures on TV of people who have nothing or who have lost everything. We may never have been through a hurricane, a tornado or even a job loss. Would we be willing to sell what we have in order to give to someone we don't know personally? Would we be willing to do it for a friend?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I've never sold anything to help someone else. I'm not sure I have that quality of love, that level of love. But I'm willing to learn.
Another of the many contrasts John draws in his first letter is that of the old command and the new command. In 1 John 2:7 he says, I'm not writing you a new command but an old one, yet it is a new command. So which is it? New or old?
He means to say it is both old and new. Leviticus 19:18 reads, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (emphasis mine) Jesus said that we should love one another as he loved us, which is more than loving our neighbor as ourselves (John 13:34). Loving someone as God loves us goes far beyond loving someone as we love ourselves. In this way, Jesus' teaching is an old teaching with a new twist. It is a command of a greater magnitude. The Jewish hearers of Jesus' teaching would have noticed the change immediately. They had been taught to love only those who did good to them.
But Jesus' teaching specifically went beyond even loving our neighbors when he proclaimed, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43). So the teaching of Jesus progressed from the old command to "love your neighbor as yourself" to "love your neighbor as I love you" to "love your enemies". Changing from "love your neighbor" to "love your enemy" indeed makes it a new command. Undoubtedly this is one of the hardest teachings of Jesus to accept and try to practice.
For Reflection: As Christians, how are we doing at loving our neighbors? How are we doing at loving our enemies? Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, "Who is my enemy?" Today I hear people in the U.S. speak of "those republicans" or "those democrats" as if they are the enemy. Or we speak of unnamed terrorists or ISIS or Al Quaeda as the enemy. Yet Paul says we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). So who, indeed, is our enemy?
Let us pray. Jesus, I seek to follow your command to love my enemies and pray for, or do good to, those who persecute me. Who have I been treating as my enemy? I ask you to help me see them through your eyes. I need help praying for them and not against them.
Welcoming travelers and showing hospitality was an important characteristic of Jewish people in the Old Testament and continues in the New Testament. Just a few examples are Deuteronomy 10:19 and Leviticus 19:34; Matthew 5:43-44, 25:35, 40; Romans 13:8, 10; Hebrews 13:1 and Romans 12:13. Jesus also told a story or parable about how to treat our "neighbors." It's the story of the Good Samaritan and the neighbor in question is a complete stranger (Luke 10:29-37). While traveling a main road a man is set upon by robbers who beat him, strip him and leave him half dead. Some people, who certainly knew how to treat a traveler, passed him by. But a Samaritan, a person possibly less-versed in Jewish law, stopped and saw to the victim's every need - care for his wounds, transportation and lodging, plus all of his expenses. The Samaritan not only saw the man in the road, he treated him like family, with love, and took care of him. It was the Samaritan who showed mercy.
The first four of the Corporal Works of Mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless or the traveler. The Good Samaritan did all of these at one time. He treated the hapless man with respect and dignity. He didn't ask what kind of man the victim was, whether he was Jewish or Roman, slave or free, good or evil. He saw someone who desperately needed help and he provided it.
For Reflection: Many people today are without jobs, without homes, without enough medical insurance. If we want to follow the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, we must respond. We cannot pass by, blind to the need and suffering of others.
Let us pray. Jesus, as I travel the roads, help me to see, to love, to respond in mercy.
Having spoken of marital love, Paul now moves on to brotherly love (philadelphia) in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10. Love of fellow Christians is one of our duties in Christ. Jesus commanded us to love one another and this teaching continued throughout the early church. This love for other co-believers should overflow into love for all people. As God loves all people, we should love all people too.
There was a YouTube video which went viral recently and an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post about women who (still) cannot walk down the street without enduring catcalls from leering men. This behavior does not exhibit brotherly love. Nor does the reverse - women ogling men - which has become almost as common, if not just as common, in U.S. society. So although every woman could tell you her own story of being on the receiving end of these comments, now men can too. This type of behavior violates the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
We spoke earlier this week of taking every thought captive to Christ. If we take such thoughts captive, we can keep ourselves from speaking them. We need also to guard our eyes from lingering where they ought not linger. That man or woman we are ogling is a child of God and someone else's husband/wife/son/daughter.
For Reflection: Am I acting toward others with brotherly love? Am I following the Golden Rule?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for creating us male and female and for making us attractive to one another. I confess that I have not always been careful about who or what I have looked at, and about what I have said to other people, especially members of the opposite sex. I have violated your command to love others as you have loved me. I ask your forgiveness and your help in being more careful about where and how I look at people and what I say to them.
Paul always began his letters with greetings and thanksgivings. His first letter to the people in Thessalonica is no exception. The purpose of the letter is to answer the questions of this young church but he begins with praise and encouragement. Paul assures them that he is constantly praying for them for he knows that they live in a city that is an international trading center with many non-Christian influences in their daily lives. Paul also knows that they have been under persecution because he himself had to flee not that long before he sent this letter back to them.
And what does Paul recall about them? Their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope in Jesus (1 Thess 1:3; see also 1 Corinthians 13:3). Faith, hope and love are the three theological virtues, supernatural virtues, given by God to help us live the Christian life, growing in love with God and others. Paul is commending them for already growing in these virtues even as a young church.
For Reflection: Who needs to hear some praise and encouragement today? Could I be commended for my work produced by faith, my labor prompted by love and endurance inspired by hope in Jesus?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for my family and friends who encourage me. I thank you particularly for those who encourage me in faith, prompt me to love and inspire me to hope.
Now let's tackle the verses with which so many people have a problem. "Wives submit to your husbands" and "Husbands, love your wives" have caused much grief for wives who misinterpret them and husbands who can't live up to them (Ephesians 5:22, 25). Both commands are compared to how Christ relates to the church. Since Christ is the head of the church, the church, as the body of Christ, submits to the head. Christ loved the church enough to give his very life for her.
These verses (5:22-33) are all of a piece. We can't separate one from another. The burden would seem to be heavier on the husband than the wife. The husband is to give himself up for his wife, to love her as he loves himself, to present the word of God to her, to help her become holy and blameless before God, just as he does for himself because in marriage the two have become one.
Paul is, of course, speaking to two Christians married to one another. Then, if the husband does all of this, the wife need only respect and submit. She is not even, in this case, told to love her husband. Yet we know we are to love all people. A husband who can do all of the above is never abusive to his wife, nor demeaning. A wife, whose husband is this good, would never lose respect for him or have a need to nag. Will they argue sometimes or disagree about what is best for their union, their body? Yes.
I'm reminded of a book I read recently which touched on the Civil War in the United States. I was constantly amazed at how far President Lincoln would go to maintain the union, the marriage if you will, among the states. He was tolerant of dissent and disagreement even among his cabinet as long as the goal was to save the union.
For Reflection: If you are married, how strong is your union? What can be done to make it stronger? If unmarried, is there anyone who helps you grow in the body of Christ? How can you honor that person?
Let us pray. God of mercy and love, unite your body more closely to you so that no part, no molecule, may go astray. Unite me more closely to you.
Increase my love for my spouse. Increase my spouse's love for me. Unite us more as one in being with you.
In the 3rd chapter of Galatians, which is certainly a difficult one, Paul contrasts the law with the promise given to Abraham and the law with faith in God/Christ. In both cases, the law is the loser. The promise to Abraham is greater than the law and faith in Christ is greater than the law.
Let us pray. Lord, you have lavished me with your love
We can learn about how God works by looking at how he calls people to help him. Earlier we went through the numerous objections that Moses gave God for not going to speak to Pharaoh. Today let's look at the call of Jeremiah. God begins by telling Jeremiah that he knew him before he was born and that he determined even then to appoint Jeremiah as a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4-5).
What God says to Jeremiah is true for each of us. God knew us before we were born. He gave us life in the womb. He appointed some specific task for each of us. It may not be as a "prophet to the nations" as it was for Jeremiah. It may not be to set a nation free as it was for Moses. But we each have a purpose. The basic purpose for each human being is to know God, to love him and to serve him in whatever way God asks.
For reflection: Knowing, loving and serving God are my tasks. Where am I with each of these?
Let us pray. (based on Psalm 139) Lord, you know everything about me - the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet you surround me with your love and your presence so much so that I cannot escape them. You think of me day and night. I am always on your mind. Thank you for knowing and loving me so thoroughly.
The team skaters at the Olympics are graded mercilessly on the execution of certain elements. Are they performing their moves in unison? How elegantly do they get in and out of a lift? Do their movements express the mood of the music? They are expected to achieve perfection throughout the entire program. They work years toward a flawless performance for those few minutes on one day of their lives.
Perfection is a tall order. Having judges watch your every move and grade you on it is nerve-racking. But the athletes have gotten used to being criticized by their coaches, and made to do it over again, until they get it right.
There is a place in the Scriptures where Jesus tells us to be perfect. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48). In this section of Matthew, Jesus is giving instructions for living which go beyond the letter of the law. It was the religious leaders of the day who were acting like Olympic judges, watching and grading people on who was keeping the law and who wasn't. But Jesus was telling them that they had it wrong. They were looking at the lesser elements. Their scoring was skewed.
When Jesus said, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," he was referring to being perfect in love. Don't just love those who love you; love your enemies. That way lies perfection.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, I want to be perfect for you. I want to be in sync with you. I want to work in unison with you.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.