A Praying Church, Part 7
April 27, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
In this series of articles, I seek to unpack the teaching of Paul Miller’s new book, A Praying Church, and apply the principles to our church. As we grow in our prayer habits, may we become people of hope in a discouraging world.
Like Paul Miller, I find Paul’s doxological prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21 to be remarkable. The apostle Paul concludes the first half of his letter with a final statement of praise to God. Implied in his praise to God is an invitation for the reader to embrace a larger vision of God and what God can and wants to do in our lives. Here is Paul’s praise: “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.”
First and foremost, this is doxology, a praise of God. “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26), even things that are beyond our wildest dreams or imaginations. All glory must and will be given to God in the church throughout all generations. This is no room for human boasting.
How does such a doxology impact our prayer life? Paul Miller contends that it draws us into praying big. I must admit that when I read the word “big” I stumble a bit. In our American context, we have a picture of what is “big.” Big equals more. More people. More money. More property. More followers. More technology. More amenities. More. More. More.
Now, Paul does use the word “more” in Ephesians 3:20. But he is drawing out minds beyond what humans can imagine or think. The American dream of what is “big” is human thinking and imagination. The apostle is praising God for bigger things, things only God accomplishes. That’s the power of the resurrection. This is what Miller wants to draw attention to when he speaks about big prayers. When we have faith in God’s power to do the humanly impossible, we are drawn into praying for the impossible to happen. That’s praying big.
We see an example of praying big in Colossians 1:9-11. Paul, with his companions, pray for spiritual wisdom, a walk worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, and strength for endurance and patience. Miller comments, “Their prayer glows with exuberance and hope, fully expectant that the resurrection power of the Spirit is available to bring the beauty of Jesus in his body, the church. Big faith drives big prayers” (p. 139).
If we evaluate our own prayers, what do we find? For what do we normally pray? We often focus on daily needs. It is not necessarily wrong to pray for daily needs. Jesus does instruct in his “Lord’s Prayer” to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” But, can you imagine the Lord’s Prayer without the first three petitions? “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Those are big prayers, far beyond our capability to bring about. If we focus solely on daily needs in our prayers, we may easily become discouraged in our prayer life. Miller observes, “Without a larger kingdom vision, repetitive and unwieldly problems feel heavy and depressing. A Jesus vision, in tension with our current situations, energizes our prayers” (p. 139).
So, what is something big you can be praying for yourself, your family, our church? A prayer for spiritual wisdom and understanding? A prayer that our kids would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord? A prayer that our marriages would reflect Christ in a world that has diminished its value of marriage? A prayer for the gospel to bear fruit and increase in Shawnee and beyond? A prayer that we would live in harmony with one another? A prayer that we would love one another with brotherly affection and outdo one another in showing honor? A prayer that we would seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first? A prayer that we would hope in the one who can do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think?