Ephesians 3:14-17a – For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his 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.
This prayer is so different than many of our typical prayers. We might tend to pray prayers that focus solely on our current situation. This is when we are simply asking God to change our circumstances and make our lives easier. There is a time for this kind of prayer. There is another kind of prayer that focuses on God changing us rather than Him changing our situation. This is how Paul prays. These are prayers where we are asking God to make us and those in the Church “complete in Christ.” [This] prayer often gets at the eternal prerogatives of God. We must, therefore, pray prayers that are aimed at this ultimate end. Otherwise our community is in danger of degenerating into, “God, would you please continue to make us more and more comfortable in every situation in our lives?” [Brad Watson, Ephesians: How Jesus Creates New People in a New World]
Using Ephesians 3:14-21, let’s pray for our Church, Missional Group, and Campus Ministries. And as we pray let’s worship to “Here I Bow” by Brian & Jenn Johnson (Click here).
Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, we pray that out of Your glorious riches, strengthen us with power so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV) – His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
“We keep falling into the same sin when we fail to believe that holiness really will make us happier than giving in again. Many other factors may influence us, but at the root of habitual sin is a battle not for self-control, but for happiness. What we believe and want, deep in our hearts, really matters.” – John Bloom
We are the happiest when we are doing what we were created to do – to love, worship and glorify God. Seeking the Lord in these ways is far better than reaching back to old habits and tendencies. Our struggles come when we aren’t living as God intended – trusting in other things, means and ways to make us happy. In God’s goodness is our deepest happiness.
In God’s divine power we seize the day for his glory.
In what ways are you not living as God has called to live? How can you dive back in?
Father, thank you for your great and precious promises. May the church find its joy in you alone today! Free me from lesser happiness and immerse me in your divine joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 John 1:5-7 (NIV) – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
When our desires conflict with Scripture, human beings do not always live according to what we say we believe. We can say we believe one thing, but our lives betray other allegiances…How can you detect these false beliefs? Start by looking at the things you do in private. Do you live very differently in private than you do in public? Do you permit your imagination to indulge itself in ungodly fantasies? If so, even though you know that God sees everything, you are experimenting with an alternative theology that says that there are some places where God can’t find you. [Welch, Edward T.. Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave]
God’s faithfulness is why we begin each day.
Spend time seeking the Lord in prayer and studying His Word concerning your struggle or unhealthy cravings. The Word of God is powerful and life giving.
Prayer: Father, thank you for your faithfulness. Align my belief with your Word, that I may live true to who I am in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Psalm 34:8-9 (NLT) Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! 9 Fear the LORD, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need.
“If the root problem of addictions is false worship, the answer is knowing the Lord, the One who deserves our worship…Scripture is full of teaching on how we are to respond to Jesus…We are told to trust him, obey him, magnify his name, worship him, love him, imitate him, and follow him. One response that might not sound as familiar is that we are told to fear him.
“While the holiness of God will leave many knees knocking when Jesus comes again, a mature fear of the Lord is more akin to awe, devotion, and worship. It is a response that says, ‘In your presence, nothing else matters. You are all that I desire.’ It is a response that is active. It does something…it follows Christ in obedience. It searches out his will and can’t wait to do it. Stop for a moment: ‘It searches out his will and can’t wait to do it.’ Here is the ultimate protection against addictions.” [Welch, Edward T.. Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave]
Before the day begins, He is. God is who defines our day, our lives, and our desires.
Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come and your will be done in my life today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ephesians 5:15-20 – Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we experience true forgiveness and freedom, but sometimes we go back to memories and old ‘crutches’ or habits. Reaching back into an old life causes cyclical patterns of habitual sins that diminish the blessing of forgiveness, grace, and joy. As people of God, we are to put off and put on (Eph 4), and we are to be filled with Spirit, speak/sing words of Spirit in worship, fellowship, giving thanks/prayer (Eph 5:18b-20).
This Spirit-filled reality is how we begin each day.
When was the last time you experienced the Holy Spirit’s filling and empowering? Soak in the memory and recognize that in those moments you were most free.
In light of the Spirit’s filling, how can you increase His filling and lessen ‘being filled’ with the struggles and temptations?
Prayer: Father, thank you for the Spirit’s presence in my life. Come Holy Spirit and fill my heart today, help me make the most of every opportunity for your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ephesian 4:17-24 – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Read through verses 20-24 again. This new reality in Christ is where we begin each day.
Recite/declare out loud all the new attitudes of the mind, and the new ways of Christ-likeness that God has created in your life!
Prayer: Father in Heaven, thank you that the old is gone and the new has come. May I honor your name today and put on the new self, living righteous and holy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We were the talk of the nations – “God was wonderful to them!” God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.
“We cannot make ourselves joyful. Joy cannot be commanded, purchased or arranged. But there is something we can do. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. We can decide to live in the environment of a living God…We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.” [E. Peterson]
“The joy that develops in the Christian way of discipleship is an overflow…that comes from feeling good not about yourself but about God. We find that his ways are dependable, his promises sure.” [E. Peterson]
Therefore… “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him! Make it clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (Phil 4:4 MSG)
Is there a “responsive-joy-in-Jesus” overflowing from you and into your church, missional group, or campus ministry? Are you helping them see the Master? What holds you back?
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him!” How can we ‘practically’ do this celebrating and reveling more in our lives together? What will it look like?
Let’s pray that we will celebrate and make much of Jesus in our churches, missional groups and campus ministries. Let’s ask for Jesus’ contagious joy for one another.
And now, God, do it again – bring rains to our drought-stricken lives So those who planted their crops in despair Will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts Will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
“The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it. It is clear in Psalm 126 that the one who wrote it and those who sang it were no strangers to the dark side of things. They carried the painful memory of exile in their bones and the scars of oppression on their backs. They knew the deserts of the heart and the nights of weeping. They knew what it meant to sow in tears.
“One of the most interesting and remarkable things Christians learn is that laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow. Pain and hardship still come, but they are unable to drive out the happiness of the redeemed…Christian joy is actual in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness and misfortune.” [E. Peterson]
What are your ‘killjoys’ in life? What are the things that seem to kill your happiness and discourage you? Why?
Take a moment and evaluate these killjoys in light of who God is and what he provides. Are they true joyous pursuits or momentary pleasantries and escapes?
Spend some time praying for the ‘desert’ moments we may be going through. Let’s ask God for hearts that will trust him and seek him for the ‘rain’ – the resolutions and help we need.
God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.= And now, God, do it again…
“The other side of ‘we are one happy people’ — verses 4-6 — is in the future tense. Joy is nurtured by anticipation. If the joy-producing acts of God are characteristic of our past as God’s people, they will also be characteristic of our future as his people. There is no reason to suppose that God will arbitrarily change his way of working with us. What we have known of him, we will know of him. Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future. It expects certain things to happen.” [E. Peterson]
Psalm 126 “announces the existence of a people who assemble to worship God and disperse to live to God’s glory, whose lives are bordered on one side by a memory of God’s acts and the other by hope in God’s promises, and who along with whatever else is happening are able to say, at the center, ‘We are one happy people.’” [E. Peterson]
How does joy become a powerful witness to the greatness of God?
In what ways can, “And now, God, do it again!” change the way we pray? How can Psalm 126 reframe our passion and hope in prayer? Describe.
This joyful and ‘wonder-filled’ life is our testimony to others. Let’s ask God to empower us this way so we will love and care for those who need God’s impossible miracles. Let’s ask Him to, “do it again,” now in their lives like he did in ours.
It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion’s exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations – “God was wonderful to them!” God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.
“We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.” The word ‘fortune’ here is about God’s favor, his restoration and transformation. “That is the authentic Christian note, a sign of those who are on the way of salvation…Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience. We come to God (and to the revelation of God’s ways) because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous. Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality…It is exuberance.” [E. Peterson]
How do faith and obedience relate to joy in our daily lives?
Ephesians 1:3 (NIRV) – “Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings come from the heavenly world. They belong to us because we belong to Christ.”
What are the spiritual blessings we have received? How does this spiritual ‘exuberance’ change the way we live and interact with one another?
Let’s take some time to give thanks to the Lord for his blessings. Let’s pray for joyful obedience in our lives and deeper faith that is expressed in love.