Prayer is a spiritual discipline that most every Christian recognizes as a foundational and necessary practice. Yet, the actions of many professing Christ run counter to that conviction. Both personally and in our corporate times of worship, prayer is either ignored (personally) or utilizes the same phraseology passed down from generation to generation without a connection to heart and mind and soul. We in church world know the words, the timing, the pacing—we now how to do this without knowing how to do this.
The American church struggles with prayer as a body. Why? Why, when such deep conviction is known and even defended, do we struggle personally and corporately with prayer? Many will provide the answers, but I believe the reason is pride that manifests itself in a lot of ways that the apostle Paul addresses in Ephesians 3:14-21. We believe we are strong enough, smart enough, full enough, and great enough on our own. The plague that devastates Christians and churches is not COVID 19 or SARS or any other disease, but the plague of self-sufficiency, and as such is not worth the work. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointedly noted, “Prayer is difficult. Like anything of great value, prayer takes great effort, tremendous care, and Spirit-filled discipline.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus to remind them that there is not a Gentile race or a Jew race when it comes to the Kingdom of God. Kent Hughes calls the Church the “third race” that is neither Jew or Gentile as a primary identity. Yet, as he ended the first half of this letter with a call to prayer. In fact, 3:1 is where Paul started the call to prayer before he moved on to other matters that the Spirit brought to his mind to make sure the Gentiles knew about how God had moved in Paul and the church. (It must be said that Paul ended the second half of this letter with a call to prayer in Ephesians 6:18-20.)
Paul warned the Ephesian church and the Spirit through Paul warns us today that Christians are not strong enough, smart enough, full enough, nor great enough to accomplish anything of any eternal significance on our own. Bring together this “third race” can only happen through a posture of humility. Erik Thoennes rightly noted, “Paul’s preaching turns to prayer in recognition that only God is able to bring the heart transformation needed in the lives of the Ephesians. Any ministry not grounded in prayer will have a shaky foundation.” Prayer here is not merely for the individuals but seeks to unify these individuals with their varying backgrounds into one cohesive Spiritual unit.
[This is the excerpt from a sermon from April 26, 2020.]
Albert Mohler, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down…