Most of the time I pray for those whom I know from personal experience. I keep a list of those persons in my journal and on a slip of paper that I attach to my pocket calendar. The listing contains the name of relatives, friends, and members of my congregation.
In Paul’s prayer, as recorded in Ephesians, he is praying for believers whom he does not know and whom he has never met. He has “heard” about their faith and love, which causes him to give thanks for their witness. Paul reminds me to expand my prayer list to include persons in the church universal.
Although I do not have a personal relationship with people in other congregations, I am called to pray for them. This scripture lesson has quickened my heart to pray for those whom I have “heard of” because all of us belong to the church, which is “his body.”
We can easily think of the church as just another institution with its many extensions and expressions. The local congregation is not a franchise of the denomination. Paul wants us to understand the importance of praying for the body of Christ in both its local and global expressions.
Several years ago I preached in a congregation in Angola located in an area of grinding poverty. The pastor prayed for his congregation, and he also prayed for the church in America. I have listened to hundreds of pastoral prayers, but I cannot recall a time when an American pastor prayed for the church in another country.
God gives us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation.” We pray expressing confidence in God’s “immeasurable greatness,” acknowledging God’s great power as the source of all we do.
Loving and listening God, I praise your immeasurable greatness. May your power help me widen my circle of prayer to include those whom I do not know. Amen.
The universal rule of God, expressed in Christ the Shepherd-King, is a dominant theme in all the texts assigned for the week. Both Old Testament texts dwell on the nurturing, protecting role of the Shepherd-King, whose people we are. Ezekiel 34 gives the shepherd’s guiding and defending role a political twist by condemning the succession of shepherd-kings who have neglected and exploited the flock. Both New Testament passages celebrate the victory of Christ: the enthroned Son of Man of Matthew 25 separates the flock, and the risen Christ of Ephesians 1 is seated by God “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” Christ guarantees God’s completed reign.
• Read Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. How does it feel to be compared to sheep with God as the shepherd? What would the sheep expect from the shepherd? What would the shepherd expect from the sheep?• Read Psalm 100. How would a total stranger know that your faith in God brings you joy?
• Read Ephesians 1:15-23. Would you say that you love God more with your mind or with your heart?
• Read Matthew 25:31-46. What is required for you to be so attuned to others that you would recognize the Christ in them? How will you ensure that Christ’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.