3 Days of Prayer and Fasting (2017/09)

Ephesians 1:1-23 (ESV)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Day 1: Loving God
Read: Ephesians 1:1-14
Reflect:
We have myriad reasons to “bless” God, because He has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly place.” We bless and praise God, because He first blessed us. Paul names some of these wonderful spiritual blessings:
First, God the Father chose, or elected us for salvation (vv. 4-6, 11-13). The word translated “purpose” in verses 5 and 9 is actually bettered rendered, “good pleasure.” Our Heavenly Father chose us “according to His good pleasure.” “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons” (v. 5). The Father’s love, the Father’s good pleasure, is the basis of His election. God’s choice was not some arbitrary fiat, dispassionate decision, or cold calculation. Before we were born, and before we had done anything good to deserve His affection, our Heavenly Father thought of us, delighted in us, loved us, and singled us out for His special affection.
Second, “in [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (v. 7). Note the switch of tenses. This is a present reality for us as believers. Jesus said regarding His earthly mission in Mark 10:45, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” “Ransom” is the price paid for the redemption of something. That means Jesus is the ransom that God the Father paid in order to redeem us from slavery to sin and death. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, in our place, and then He rose again from the dead and secured “the forgiveness of our trespasses.” Every spiritual blessing we receive lies in Christ and comes through Christ.
Third, as Christians, we have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (vv. 13-14). A seal is both a token of security and a mark of ownership. In the Old Testament, priests wore a seal engraved with the phrase, “Holy to the LORD” (Exod. 28:36; 39:30). The clause, “until we acquire possession of it” is better translated as “until the redemption of … God’s possession,” which is how the NIV translates it. Paul is highlighting the fact that the saints are God’s inheritance (cf. Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 2:9). The Spirit of God seals us, and He is Himself our seal. When we are low and sorrowful with suffering, when we were plagued by guilt, fear, doubt, and insecurity, it is the Spirit that assures us that we are indeed adopted sons of God (Rom. 8:15-16). He is our advocate. He is our comforter. He is the manifestation of the presence of God in our lives. He is the bond of our union with Christ. He is the means by which we have fellowship with God. He is the one who is alongside us in prayer, who fills us with joy and gratitude in our worship, who strengthens us for obedience.
Pray:
  • Pray that you would be characterized by deep humility and gratitude, as you recognize that salvation is, from the beginning to the end, of God’s unmerited favor, not our own merit.
  • Identify lies that you have entertained about God and confess any unbelief about the Triune love of God in your life. Pray that you would know in your head and heart the Father’s love, the Son’s grace/encouragement, and the Spirit’s fellowship (2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1), and that you would walk in closer communion with the Triune God.
  • Confess your personal sins, and pray that God would help you to live in a manner that is “holy and blameless before him” (v. 4).

Day 2: Loving One Another
Read: Ephesians 1:15-23
Reflect:
Being a Christian is not merely about having “faith in the Lord Jesus,” but also about having “love toward all the saints” (v. 15). We cannot love Christ, who is “head over all things” (v. 22), without loving the church, “which is his body” (v. 23). Paul “[did] not cease to give thanks for [the Ephesian believers],” but consistently “remember[ed] [them] in [his] prayers” (v. 16), because he knew that growth in the “knowledge of [God]” and awareness  of God’s “power toward us who believe” (v. 19) was only possible through the work of “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation” (v. 17). Do we, as a church, labor in prayer for one another in this way? It’s easy to default, on the one hand, to functional deism, thinking that God does not act/intervene in our lives and that we must therefore be independent and self-reliant, and, on the other hand, to fatalistic victimism, blaming others (even God!) for our problems and resigning ourselves to sinful, unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior. Both attitudes prevent faith-filled intercessory prayer. Throughout Ephesians, Paul expresses his firm belief that God’s power can enable believers to:
  1. Do good deeds (2:10)
  2. Overcome racism/ethno-centrism and live in unity with other believers (2:14-16)
  3. Grow in patience, humility, and gentleness (4:2-3)
  4. Serve the church with one’s gifts (4:7-16)
  5. Be less self-centered and more sacrificial (5:1-2)
  6. Forsake sexual immorality, greed, lying, anger, stealing, crude talk, alcohol abuse, etc. (4:25-5:18)
  7. Develop healthy relationships (5:22-6:9)
  8. Resist the power and influence of demonic spirits (6:12).
Let us also pray for one another with such faith!
Pray:
  • Pray that our church would “know what is the hope to which he has called [us]” (v. 18), that our lives would be defined by, and constrained by, our future hope, so that we live in holiness.
  • Pray that our church would know “what are the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” (v. 18), that we are valuable and precious to God. That we are His “glorious inheritance.” Pray for a deeper experience of the love of God in our church.
  • Pray that our church would grow in intercessory prayer for one another, and for increased attendance at our Corporate Prayer Service on Friday Nights and the prayer time before the Sunday service.
  • Pray that our church would have faith in the “immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe” (v. 19) and in the reality of Christ’s headship “above all rule and authority and power and dominion,” so that we might minister in East Cambridge with confidence and boldness.
  • Pray that Christ, who is head over all, would provide for us a bigger, affordable meeting space within East Cambridge to meet our growing needs. Pray also for God’s financial provision as we go into a new fiscal year with a projected deficit, that God would dispose our members to give generously.
  • Pray for the Membership Class in October, that God would bring those who are on the fringes to deeper commitment through membership, and that the class would be united around the Biblical truths and values that define our church.

Day 3: Sharing the Love of Christ with Others
Read: Ephesians 1:3-21
Reflect:
God’s ultimate goal in His redemptive plan is not merely to unite His people to Himself through Christ, but to subject all of creation to Himself. Verses 8-10 tell us that “in all wisdom and insight [the Father made] known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” The word that is translated “unite” here literally means to “bring under the headship of.” Paul also speaks of Christ’s headship several times in the Book of Ephesians. In 1:22, it says that God the Father “put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” In 4:15, it says that “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” And finally, in 5:23, it says that “Christ is the headof the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”
Similarly, verses 22-23 tell us that the church is the body of Christ—the “fullness of [Christ]”—and that Christ fills the whole world (“all in all”) through His body, the church. God’s original charge to His earthly representatives Adam and Eve was, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Gen. 1:28). It is now the church’s commission to fill the whole world with the image of Christ. We are His body, His fullness.
Pray:
  • Pray that Christ who is head over all would grant us authority and influence over the strongholds of the evil one in our neighborhood and city (e.g. pervasive skepticism, career idolatry, materialism, racism, sexual immorality, etc.)
  • Pray that God would make us bold and winsome witnesses among our friends and neighbors. Write down the names of unbelieving friends and neighbors that you know and feel called to pray for, and pray for them specifically.
  • Pray that God would draw to us those whom “he predestined … for adoption to himself as sons,” and that we would meet and build relationships with these people in various contexts (e.g. Rib Fest, Board Game Night, Frisbee, etc.)
  • Pray for conversions leading up to our Baptism Sunday on November 26th.
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