Monday, November 02, 2020

Cosmic Level Prayer

Reading through the book of Ephesians has been a good reminder of how we always need to keep the big picture in our minds, especially in 2020.  The first three chapters focuses repeatedly on the cosmic picture of God's plan and how we fit in it.  At the center of his plan is the "Immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph 1:19-20).

Ephesians 2:6 says that God "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."  We are also seated with him in the heavenly places!  We are involved in cosmic struggle alongside Christ with many things happening behind the scenes.  This is why the text goes on to say that God has entrusted his grace to us so that, "through the church that manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rules and authorities in the heavenly places" (Eph 3:10). 

Since we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places, we participate in his work.  Reigning with Christ at God's right hand involves dominion.  God's plan for dominion is through personal redemption and reformation through the Gospel of Kingdom.  As we spread the Gospel, people respond by submission to the King of Kings.  

This is a spiritual battle.  Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  The following analogy of the armor of God teaches that we need truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer.  The text tells us to take up the whole armor of God, which means that each of these are indispensable in our cosmic struggle.  The text says as we use the armor, we need to be "praying at all times in the Spirit."

There are two prayers in Ephesians which could be called "cosmic prayers."  The first in at 1:15-23, and the second is at 3:14-21.  It is good to reflect on these prayers as a model of what to pray for as we struggle against the cosmic powers in the heavenly places.  

In the second prayer, I am struck by the phrasing in verse 3:18, which prays that we "may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth."    The word, katalambano, which is translated "comprehend," means to overtake, seize, overcome, or apprehend.  It is used in places like Mark 9:18, where a demon would "seize" someone, or 1 John 1:5, where the darkness did not "overcome" the light.  When it is used of thinking, to "overcome/apprehend with the mind," it can be translated "comprehend," which is how many translations have rendered this.  The prayer is that we would have the strength to apprehend/overcome the breadth, length, height, and depth.  However big it is, the prayer is that we have the strength to overtake it.  

This prayer, in light of Ephesians 6:10-18, is a reminder of what "praying at all times in the Spirit" should focus on.  The prayer is not to diminish the battle, but to increase our strength through the power of God.  The prayer is not a prayer to change the circumstances, but to change me.  God did not shrink Goliath.  Instead, he strengthened David with power in the inner person.  He increased David inwardly and David overcame Goliath.

What a needed reminder during a time such as 2020!  Whatever Goliath comes our way, we need to pray.  There is a struggle happening behind the scenes, and it is not about a virus, politics, or even the economy.  The enemy is hard at work to both prevent and destroy faith in God.  However, God is able to do for more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. We know Christ is reigning at God's right hand, and we are seated with him.  May we never lose our focus.

Lord, please enlighten the eyes of our heart.  Fill us up with all the fullness of Christ.  Root and ground us in love.  Fill us with power, love, and discipline.  Make us greater than the task. 

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