What do we pray for? Typically, we pray for the sick, the elders, the success of the gospel, our country, some spiritually weak person. But Paul shows a spiritual depth we should try to develop. He prays for the Ephesians to “have the eyes of their hearts enlightened that they may know …the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe” How much power is that? “The strength of his might which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him to sit in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:15-20, selected).
God first exercised this power when we were “dead in our trespasses and sins, sons of disobedience and children of wrath and lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind. But God loved us and made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him and made us to sit in the heavenly places. For we are created in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:1-10, selected)
The thought of being raised with Christ should remind us of our baptism, “Or are you ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him into death that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this that our old man was crucified with him that the body of sin might be done away, so that we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that has died is justified from sin” (Rom 6:3-7). Though even more dead than the dust from which God made Adam, He saved us, made us alive.
In neither passage was the Holy Spirit encouraging sinners to be baptized. He was encouraging Christians to allow God to keep acting through them by his great power to transform. We take the Lord’s Supper each week to remember both Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and our own with him. We take the bread and remember his incarnation, the life he lived as a man, tempted, yet without sin. And, we should consider our life that we are now committed to making like his. We take the cup and remember his body on the cross, his dying, his blood (life) poured out as an offering for sin. And, we should remember our death to sin. We remember his resurrection without which his life and death are meaningless, and focus on the power that God works in us to create the new man in us.
We cannot stay the same week after week, memorial after memorial, praying for God to accept us the way we were last week and the week before. There is power beyond our own abilities for us to change, power beyond our imaginations to become like Jesus.
Paul again prayed, that they/we, “be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith to the end that we being rooted and grounded in love may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Eph 3:16-19).
Motivating inmates to reach out for spirituality which they have never known is actually easy. I tell them about the love, the love on the cross, the love to call us while we were dead in sin, the love of Christ named above that is with us and in us, and then I ask, “Don’t you want to be forever where that love is?” Many of them have never been loved, for real, never been loved by anyone, even their parents. Some of us have the same doubts. But, there is no doubting the love of Christ.
Finally, Paul prayed, “Now to him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” What power is that which works in us? That same power that raised Christ from the dead and made us new creatures.
It is past time for us to stop telling ourselves and others that we are doing the best we can and that is all God requires. Really, we probably know we are deceiving ourselves, but we are unwilling to face the mirror and change. God requires that we grow and change according to the power he works in us through Christ.
This is the commitment we make when we take the Lord’s Supper.
"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as 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. " (2Cor 3:18).