“The Bible isn’t there simply to be an accurate reference point for people who want to look things up and be sure they’ve got them right. It is there to equip God’s people to carry forward his purposes of new covenant and new creation. It is there to enable people to work for justice, to sustain their spirituality as they do so, to create and enhance relationships at every level, and to produce that new creation which will have about it something of the beauty of God himself.” ― N.T. Wright, Simply Christian
“… I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” Ephesians 3:14-17
As you read Ephesians 3, notice how Paul starts to say one thing in v. 1… takes a brief digression… then returns to his original topic (which turns out to be a prayer) in v. 14. The majority of scholars agree that this is the result of two things: 1) Paul dictated this letter to a scribe, so it has a more conversational structure; and 2) Paul’s high emotional investment in his message. Try reading Ephesians 3 aloud – with feeling! – to experience Paul’s letter the way gatherings of first century Christians would have.
Thoughts on the Body of Christ from author Rachel Held Evans:
“Jesus said his Father’s House has many rooms. In this metaphor I like to imagine the Presbyterians hanging out in the library, the Baptists running the kitchen, the Anglicans setting the table, the Anabaptists washing feet with the hose in the backyard, the Lutherans making liturgy for the laundry, the Methodists stocking the fire in the hearth, the Catholics keeping the family history, and the Pentecostals throwing open all the windows and doors to let more people in.”
Paul spends so much of his letters in prayer, it’s hard to tell sometimes where one begins and ends. But isn’t this what prayer should be? A constant conversation with God about everything. Even the things that cause us pain. The Bible is filled with every kind of prayer: worship, praise, intercessory… as well as angry, painful, and lamenting. Prayer isn’t contrived holiness. Prayer is authentic relationship with our Father, even when we’re feeling less than holy.
Author Anne Lamott on authenticity in prayer: “My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, “It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,” it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real – really real.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19, The Message)