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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Navel destroyer

From ancient times, Christians of a mystical bent have abandoned society in order to spend all their time in prayer.

Well . . . at least they tried. The problem (then as now) is that many Christians found their minds wandering – they just couldn’t concentrate on whatever it was they were supposed to be praying about!

So they tried chanting. And special ways of breathing. And focusing their attention on some special object – a candle maybe, or a picture of Jesus.

In fact, some even tried to rid themselves of all distractions by earnestly contemplating their own belly-buttons.

And yes, that’s where we get the phrase, “navel-gazing.”

And no, I’ve no idea if they found this useful . . . but I’m pretty sure that Paul would not!

All the way through Ephesians, remember, Paul has tried to move our focus outward – away from “me” and “mine” and toward “we” and “us.”

We saw this in his discussion of salvation – a salvation that includes more than just people like us.

We saw this in his discussion of ethics – an ethics that cares about more than just people like us.

Now we see it in Paul’s requests for prayer – requests that ask the Ephesians to pray, not just for themselves, but for Paul and his mission to others.

In short, Paul’s request for prayer is one last attempt to build a community: a group of people who’ve found God by serving others (and not by shutting them out).

So how do you do that in this week’s lesson? Some suggestions:

1. Compare the prayer requests in Ephesians 6:18-20 with the subject of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-18 and Ephesians 3:14-19. How are they alike? How are they different?

2. What specific advice does Paul give about prayer in Ephesians 6:18? Why is all of his advice important? Which do you find the most difficult to follow?

3. Why might it have surprised the church in Ephesus that Paul would ask for prayer? How easy do
you find it to ask for prayer? Why is that?

4. Notice the specific things for which Paul asks prayer – for whom do you pray, and how specific are your prayers for them?

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Prayer is not a substitute for taking up your rightful burdens” – John Carmody.


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