Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Prayer for those "in Ephesus"

Ruins of the Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Turkey
We are going through the letters to the seven churches right now, and considered yesterday the message to the church at Ephesus.  Doctrinally strong, hard working, persevering, and discerning, this church nevertheless faced a potential death sentence over one deficiency: their lack of the love they had at first.  This love from God and toward him and the body, had been forsaken; not that their efforts were wrong, but they no longer were being done for the right reasons.

Early church fathers wrote in the second century that Ephesus did indeed take this message to heart and continued for centuries as a light in their world (the decimation of that whole region by Islamic conquest centuries later should not be seen as failure to repent, as it was six hundred years later).

So, if they did repent, how might they have expressed that to the Lord who warned them?

Maybe you heard this message, and saw aspects of your own spiritual life that mirrored this church's experience.  You know the truth and guard it.  You work hard for the cause of the Gospel.  But your spirit is no longer moved by devotion to the Lord and his people as it is driven by duty.  And now you see this and want to change.  How might you repent?

Perhaps you would want to pray a prayer something like this.

"O Lord of the Church and Lord of my life, you have loved me with unmatched love.  You are so kind and gentle with me.  You sent the Spirit to be your presence in me, and you always hear my cries for help.  You have poured out your gifts and yourself for me and for your people.  I have been enriched beyond understanding by your saving mercy and grace.  You bless your people always, and lead us without fail toward our good for your glory.  I will never lack any good thing.  You've made me one of your Father's children, and given me the privilege of living in your family forever.

But I have grown cold in my response to all you are and all you have done.  I've become so used to blessing that I have forgotten how undeserving I am.  I've come to treat mercy as commonplace and grace as the normal expectation of life.  I've been consistent in what you've asked, but I've forgotten why I wanted to do your will--not for your favor or blessing, but because your love captured my heart.  I've told people when their beliefs were wrong and needed to be right, but my own convictions have supplanted my affections for you and for the ones in need of correction.  I've worked hard as you would want, but I haven't labored as one working on behalf of the Lover of my soul.  Because I have let my love for you grow cold, your family has not found in me a source of love and encouragement either.  They may know I'm right, but they may well also know that something is not right in me.

Lord Jesus, forgive me for my passionless obedience.  I am remembering what service out of love was like, and I want to offer it once again.  You have not wanted my works but my heart.  You are the King of love, and you want your love to reign in me, first by being captured by your love for me.  Awaken my passion for you.  Let me think of you even before I think of your will.

Blessed Spirit indwelling me, kindle the cooling embers in my soul--fan them into flame.  Give me a fresh vision of my Savior--reaching out to me, calling me to walk with him, obeying the Law for me, forgiving me, suffering for me, dying for me, coming out of the grave for my justification, interceding for me before the Father, rebuking the adversary for accusing me, making me the Father's child and a part of a family just as loved and just as needy as I am.  Captivate my heart with a clearer vision of Jesus.  

Dear Father, you are love, and your kingdom will be a kingdom of love, where all who are yours will come to experience in ever-growing ways your love for your own.  You have loved us and sent your Son.  Fill me with your Spirit so that I will be filled with your love and be able to demonstrate it--to you and to your people.  Make my obedience a fruit of love.  Remind me that there is no power to obey, to serve or to discern that I have not received as a gift through the Spirit from your Son.  

Father, Spirit, and Son, I love you.  Let me live in your love and be a vessel of love poured out on those around me, beginning again today.  Amen.