Sermon at The Point Church, Sun 9th October 2022. Prayer and St Edward’s Update.
Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23
We are continuing to think about prayer this morning. Martin Luther, priest, theologian and reformer of the church said:
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.Martin Luther
Prayer is vital for our relationship with God.
It keeps us connected, helps us to be led by the Spirit, know more of who Jesus is, and who we are made to be. It’s for the good times and the bad, highs and lows, the every day mundane, the arrow prayers, the long drawn out…
We pray in so many different ways don’t we? – some of us like structure, repeated words, others freedom to pray however we feel led. We pray in words, in silence, in music, through art, through dance. By ourselves, with others.
Jesus taught us to pray the words of the Lords’ prayer but aside from this I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to pray – just that we do.
We all have our own relationship with God and so we all relate differently to God, it’s the same in our prayer lives. What works for you may not work for someone else. I find my own prayer life varies and God speaks to me in different ways, in different seasons.
So, one example from a few years ago, I was on retreat, a few days away to focus on the Lord. I was lying on a beach, looking up at the clouds and asking God about my future. And God gave me a profound word about who I was made to be, through the shape of the clouds in the sky! So there was something about connecting to God in creation and God using creation to speak to me, in that time of prayer, in that moment.
And yet at another time, I was sat in a quiet chapel, with others, all praying in the silence, and in that space God spoke to me of the beauty of the Lord released through the death & resurrection of Jesus. So in this encounter it was in the quiet, in a church space that God spoke.
Both were profound and spoke to me really powerfully, but both so different. Sometimes the key is just taking the time to pray in whatever circumstance or situation, and allowing God to speak or to work.
God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayerMother Teresa
We just heard this wonderful passage from Ephesians 1. A letter written to the church or possibly churches, in Ephesus, most likely by Paul (as always some debate!). Paul starts out this letter with a prayer or declaration of praise, and thanksgiving to God. This is the God we praise – a reminder of the gospel –
we are chosen, predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.
We receive redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins
This is why we worship and praise this God – this is who God is.
And then from that place, he goes on to tell of his prayers for the people of the Ephesian church
He always remembers them in his prayers. V16
He gives thanks, intercedes for them. Brings them before the Lord.
He asks for God to work in them – v17 – to be given wisdom and revelation through the HS – in order that they may know God better
V 18 Paul prays for the people to be enlightened – for their hearts to truly know the hope of the gospel, the inheritance on offer for us all
As a vicar this gives me a great model to pray for my congregation and the parish – to know the Lord, to receive revelation and power from God. but in fact they are great prayers for us to pray for anyone we know! And this is essentially what I have been praying for our church through the last few months as we have been seeking God for the future of St Ed’s.
It may seem an obvious thing to pray but I have felt so convicted that as a church we have needed to seek God’s guidance for where we go. Because we could come up with 100 ideas before breakfast as to what we ‘could’ do – and some of those would be good ideas, some may bear fruit, but if we want to truly thrive and flourish as a church – we need to be following God’s plans. To do that we need to know the Lord, to have a good solid relationship.
We need to bring ourselves and our questions before God.
We need revelation to know where next and what plans to step into.
And we need the power of the HS to lead us forward, into those plans.
So, I have talked a lot at St Ed’s about us praying as individuals and corporately together, for God’s wisdom and guidance. And I think it is the power of those united prayers that has enabled us to hear from and be led by the Lord.
I just want to give you a few examples from the last few months as an encouragement:
We have all been praying – Will and I, here at the Point and at St Ed’s, for God to guide people to come and join us – as you know.
One of the first people to respond was G. On that first Sunday I came here to preach – the day before I was even licensed at St Ed’s I prayed at the end of my sermon for God to call people to come and join us. And G heard this from home, watching online, and felt God prompting her. And then on top of that someone else here was praying and was given a picture which they shared at the front about a red front door and garage door – which was the perfect confirmation for her.
She is now our ‘Operations Assistant’ helping to implement our vision and all round excellent human being. She has been so instrumental in much of what is going on. An absolute answer to prayer. To my and others prayers ,but also in response to the prayerful listening to the person who gave that word.
We’ve had others join us to – feeling led by God, responding to prayer – D & O who within 2 weeks were offering to run children’s work. K who is using her passion for God’s creation to help run our new garden service. God is answering my own prayers to bring people, and others prayers as to whether they should join St Ed’s
And on that we still need a treasurer – you don’t actually have to join the church to be our treasurer – our current one is a member of another church – but sadly moving away. So I’m praying right now – God send us a treasurer – maybe you are listening / watching and feel that prompting – you COULD be an answer to prayer too!
Another response to our gathered prayer was in leading us to an outdoor service. We had lots of ideas about how to create a space for worship that was accessible to people not used to church, that would be interesting and attractive. Talked about messy church, Lego church! and wild church was one idea.
At the same time I was getting lots of emails about our over grown churchyard which made me realise people really care about our outdoor space. I went on a conference and there was a time of worship held outdoors, which made me think God might be prompting us to this. And finally, on a Sunday off I went to Kings church. “Coincidentally” it was a key anniversary for them and the pastor was talking about their vision they had for their building and how it had come about and answers to prayer and so on. We were just going through that process of seeking God’s vision so I went and asked him and his wife to pray for me afterwards for that same guidance from God to lead us into God’s vision for St Ed’s as God had done for them at Kings.
She had a word for me that was all focussed around an area of our churchyard and new life. I was so surprised because they had no idea what we were considering! It felt like confirmation from the Lord.
And then to top it all off I met with K just a few weeks after who told me of her passion for creation and she was super excited and wanted to get involved with an outdoor service!
So God used my prayers, the prayers of the King’s Pastors, and K to confirm an idea that came out of the prayers of the vision team, and on top of the prayers of those praying for our vision process!
Prayer is key!
And just briefly to give you the low down – if you’ve not yet heard the headline points of our vision are:
- A new mid week contemporary service – 1 out of 4 to start – 2nd Wed of the month. More space for the Holy Spirit. This term looking at spiritual gifts.
- A new outdoor service and Community Garden – 1st Sun of the month – last weekend was the first one – we planted potatoes, looked for stuff in the churchyard, made toast on the fire.
- And seeking funding for a children, family and schools worker to help us grow with the younger generation and grow our relationships with the schools locally.
So we’ve been praying for people, for wisdom and revelation, thanking God for those that have come to us led by the Lord, but then this is what Paul prays next:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…Ephesians 1:18-20
Paul prays for the people of the churches in Ephesus to know God’s incredibly great power – he says the same power that was exerted when Christ was raised from the dead! I mean he’s already prayed great prayers but then he says he is praying for people to know the power of God – in abundance!
Power is a theme that Paul comes back to through Ephesians. Possibly because Ephesus was a place of power and influence so he was linking to the culture, to a theme that made sense to those hearing it. The city was a place of power, a centre of imperial influence and indeed of religious power and influence, with many cults and different beliefs thriving – many of which focussed on the idea of power and influence – how to have the power to influence others/ situations etc. Their world was dominated by ‘principalities and powers’, levels of rulers and authorities from local magistrates up to internationally recognized gods and goddesses, and all stages in between’. (Tom Wright)
And yet Paul is saying – you want to know about power? Forget what you are surrounded by – take a look at Jesus – who God raised from the dead – surely the greatest display of power ever?
Who was raised – v21
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
It’s like Paul’s longing for the church to realise all that the Lord offers – if we just open our eyes to it – if we are just enlightened to it, as he says. This power that is available to us each and every day.
It will take – as he notes in v17 the wisdom and revelation of who God is – the in depth, detailed and full revelation to know this power.
Which we can seek through prayer.
So Paul essenitially prays for these 3 things:
- An enlightened heart – to know hope
- Glorious inheritance – which he reminds us a few verses earlier v5 that we are predestined for adoption through Jesus Christ.
- And the same power that rose Jesus from the dead.
It’s like a masterclass in how to pray for our churches, for each other!
How often do we pray for one another or our churches like this?
Now I just want to take us back to the verses at the start of this section. A few words its easy to skip over: v15-16
… ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayersEphesians 1:15-16
And your love for all God’s people
Paul was inspired by their faith and their living out of that in loving others – it’s a theme Paul touches in in various places, that even with these amazing truths, the power of God and so on, love is our foundation.
You know when I was preparing to arrive at St Edward’s the thing I felt God saying again and again was – love them. Just love them.
We have to build our prayer lives on love, the love of God that plays out through us.
Those 3 things Paul prays for, all come out of love:
- An enlightened heart – to know hope – the hope that comes through Jesus who gave everything for us in love
- Glorious inheritance – we get to be called God’s children – because God loves us
- And the same power that rose Jesus from the dead – love overcoming death.
So I think Paul is reminding us that we need to pray big bold powerful prayers, but also those that are built on the gentleness, if you like, of love.
So where are you at this morning? What’s your prayer life like? Are you praying bold prayers or if you’re honest just about hanging in there?
Are you seeking God’s revelation and wisdom for something in your life?
And I’d say again – for the last time! Is God prompting you to join us at St Edward’s?
Perhaps you need to have your heart enlightened – you need a reminder, or even to know it fully for the first time – of who Jesus is and the hope he brings to you personally?
Perhaps you need a revelation of that glorious truth that we get to be called children of God?
Or you need some of that Holy Spirit power?
Well we are talking about prayer so we are going to take the opportunity to pray together. All of us. Just for a few minutes.
So I want to encourage you to just gather in maybe 3 or 4 – the people sat next to you and pray for
And that God would work through those 3 things to each of you.