‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ (Ephesians 6:18)
Pray is a powerful weapon. Paul tells us two things about pray in this passage, it must be constant, pray in all situations. It must be unselfish, pray for others, pray for our Church.
Paul is in under arrest, chained to a Roman soldier day and night, no longer spreading the Gospel message from city to city across the known world. Paul was under spiritual attack, doubt would have filled his mind and so he asks that they pray also for him: ‘Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.’ (Ephesians 6:19-20)
Paul’s request for prayer is not that he will be released from the chains, but that he will share the Gospel fearlessly in his chains, to the Roman soldiers and to those in power. Paul doesn’t want the chains he is in to stop him from sharing the good news about Jesus.
What do we pray for? Release from the chains that hold us? Or that we might fearlessly make know the mystery of the gospel in whatever circumstances we might find ourselves.
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35)
It is interesting that in John’s Gospel there is no account of the Last Supper itself. John’s Gospel does talk about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, teaching and praying; but there is no mention of bread and wine in chapter 13. But throughout John’s Gospel, the Eucharist is there in the many chapters that talk about Jesus as the bread of life and the true vine. About feeding on him and the importance of his blood. It’s here very clearly in chapter 6:
‘For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.’ (John 6:55)
We need more than just physical food, Jesus is telling us that we must feed the souls. When we feed on Jesus we feed our minds and our souls. We need spiritual food not just physical food.
When we come to church we get that kind of nourishment, in the songs we sing, in the profound liturgy we say, in the prayers, in the bible readings, in the sermon. In the sharing of communion with our church family and in the fellowship afterward.
But it’s not just on Sundays at Church that we can get spiritual nourishment. We can feed on the words of Jesus, by reading the Bible a little every day, by talking about our faith with others. We can feed on Jesus through praying together or by ourselves. We should never stop learning about God’s love, we should never stop feeding on Jesus.
‘I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Ephesians 3:16-19)
I really like Paul’s prayer in chapter 3 of Ephesians, in it you see Paul’s desire for the church to be filled with the same power that his ministry has been full of. Paul’s ministry was so powerful because through prayer he experiences the deep love of Christ.
Prayer brings together love and power: the relation of love that grows up between God and the person who prays, and the flowing of power from God too and especially through that person. (Wright)
Through prayer, we too can experience the deep deep love of God and have the power, that is the Holy Spirit, flow through our ministry as we build the kingdom of God in our communities.
‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(Ephesians 3:20-21)
‘I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me’ (v11)
Here Jesus is drawing on an image of God from the Old Testament, from an Old Testament Book called Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet in Israel about 600 years before the time of Jesus.
It says in Ezekiel:
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. … I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.I will shepherd the flock with justice. (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16)
Jesus is identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd building on this Ezekiel passage about God as the shepherd. Jesus is the fulfilment of this Ezekiel passage, in Jesus’ ministry we see him healing the sick and acting justly. But Jesus goes further than the Ezekiel passage by saying that the good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep.
Jesus tells us a hired hand is not willing to do that, faced with danger a hired shepherd will save themselves if a wolf attacks the sheep. Jesus laid down His life for the sheep because He is the Good Shepherd because He loves us.
It’s not what you know it’s who you know. And we know the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Who loves us so much that He was willing to lay down His life for us. So what can we do? Well in this chapter Jesus also talks about the sheep hearing His voice.
his sheep follow him because they know his voice. (v4)
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (v16)
Our job then is to get better at hearing the voice of Jesus. Hearing what Jesus is saying to us in our lives. Relationships work best when you work on them. Keep listening out for the voice of Jesus in the Bible, through prayer, in church and with friends.