This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
A Pastor’s Prayer for God’s People
Meditation on Ephesians 3: 14-19
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
In times like these, we need praying pastors who love their flock. There are the sick, sorrowing, unemployed, and those who are lonely with the Covid pandemic. There is upheaval in state and federal government, and even upheaval in the church. How we need praying pastors! I remember taking my church directory and praying each day for five or more of the members or families of the church, each with their own particular needs and circumstances, making sure that none got forgotten.
Notice the posture of the pastor Paul. He was on bended knee. Posture in prayer is never a matter of indifference. The slouching position of the body, while one is supposed to be praying, is an abomination to the Lord. On the other hand, it is also true that Scripture nowhere prescribes one and only one, correct posture. Different positions of the head, arms, hands, knees, and the body as a whole, are indicated. All of these are permissible as long as they symbolize different aspects of the worshiper’s reverent attitude, and reflect the sentiments of his heart. “Bowing the knees” pictures humility, solemnity, and adoration.
The prayer is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, in Christ, to the Triune God who is our God and Father. The prayer is for the Father’s Family, which in Greek is a play on words: patera pasa patria. What a beautiful picture of the church! Jew and Gentile are one church or family of God. It is one family, whether already taken to heaven or yet here on earth. How close the ties are that unite the part of the church that is in heaven with the part that is still on earth. When we recite the words of the Apostle’s Creed, we say, “I believe an holy catholic church, the communion of saints.” Do we cherish those that have gone before us? Do we remember in our prayers the martyred church? What about pregnant mothers and their unborn children? It is the whole family for whom Paul prays: Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, young and old, educated and uneducated, sick and healthy, those faithful and those who are straying: everyone! It is in the family as a whole that God’s great purpose of making known His manifold wisdom is fulfilled. May the pastor remember all these in his prayers, both privately and in his congregational prayers. It is the church that is found in different nations, cultures, and denominations.
What did the Apostle Paul ask for God’s family? Let me list them briefly in this meditation.
First, it is that believers may be strengthened internally through the Holy Spirit. Paul had been talking about suffering for God’s cause. It is in suffering that the grace of God is manifested. But who has strength for suffering? We certainly do not choose suffering. We shrink from it. But it is not only in times of suffering that we need to be strengthened. We need strength every day of our lives and in every circumstance. Is it in temptations, the needed strength to resist it and be victorious? Is it in tough moral choices at work, that you need the strength to do the right thing, so that Jesus is honored? What about the strength that the busy wife and mother needs to do all the chores around the house without complaining or becoming weary is well-doing? Do not we all need strength to be powerful and faithful witnesses, speaking and living the truth?
Second, Paul prayed that believers may be indwelt with Christ by faith. Oh, may Christ abide mightily in our hearts and lives! Do you see here the concept of the covenant? Christ not only dwelling with us, but He dwells in us! The result will be that as believers, we will be rooted and grounded in love. There are two figures used here, one from agriculture and the other from architecture. Love is pictured as something that nourishes us and then also is pictured as a solid foundation.
Third, Paul prayed that believers may be able to grasp the fullest dimensions of Christ’s love, a love that surpasses our full knowledge. It is a prayer that we may know the breadth and length and depth and height. May we grow in our awareness of that love, particularly through the routine hardships, sufferings, and persecutions of our lives.
Fourth, Paul prayed that believers may “be filled with all the fullness of God.” This is the climax, the top of the ladder in the prayer. In other words, the knowledge just described is transforming in character. We, beholding as it were in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit (II Cor. 3:18). Contemplating the love of Christ’s love means that we are increasingly transformed into that image!
What a prayer! How I need that prayer! How God’s family needs that prayer! May God give us pastors that are in prayer, praying these things for us!
O love of God, how strong and true, Eternal, and yet ever new, Uncomprehended and unbought, Beyond all knowledge and all thought.
O heavenly love, how precious still in day of weariness and ill, In nights of pain and helplessness, To heal, to comfort, and to bless.
We read thee best in Him who came to bear for us the cross of shame; Sent by the Father from on high, our life to live our death to die.
O love of God our shield and stay through all the perils of our way; Eternal love, in thee we rest, forever safe, forever blest. ~ Virgil Taylor