O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen.
By Anthony of Padua, 13th century Franciscan friar.
Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth:
Set up your kingdom in our midst.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God:
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
Holy Spirit, breath of the living God:
Renew me and all the world.
By N. T. Wright, contemporary New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop.
[This is a Trinitarian re-working of the traditional Jesus Prayer.]
Josef Pieper writes about strenuous effort versus free spontaneity in living the virtuous life with God:
The strain of self-mastery, which for us countrymen of Kant is inseparable from any concept of upbringing and moderation and is generally tied to and fused with the concept of virtue, is an accompanying phenomenon only of less perfect and beginner stages, whereas authentic, perfected virtue, by dint of the very definition of the concept, bears the happily radiant seal of spontaneity, of freedom from constraint and of self-evident inclination. (From A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, p. 10)
I love the way Pieper highlights the difference between immature and mature virtue. The effort-driven, straining of self-mastery is a reflection of beginning in virtue. The movement toward maturity is marked by an increasing spontaneity of virtuous action.
The Apostle Paul’s words ring in my mind here: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:15, 26 ESV). As we increasingly walk by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit, like someone learning a dance, we become increasingly overcome by the rhythms and patterns and less conscious of the effort it takes to move our feet to the rhythms of the dance.
Self-conscious spiritual effort feels tense and difficult to watch, yet it is the necessary first steps of growing with God, sensing His Spirit’s work in us, and learning the patterns of life with God. But it is the spontaneous living with God that brings out the sweetest rhythms of grace, overflowing into the most beautiful dance of life in step with God’s calling for holy living.
I continued our series on prayer, “Great Prayers of the Bible“, at Eastbrook Church this past weekend by looking at four themes on prayer from the early church in the book of Acts. I try not have a romanticized view of the early church that leads into an impulse to “recover the true church.” However, I do believe we can learn some important lessons on prayer from the earliest believers who walked with Jesus.
You can view the message video and the sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.
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“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.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Have you ever been so overwhelmed by a sunset that you felt you had to tell someone? Have you ever been so excited that you simply were bursting to shout about it? That is a little bit what the Apostle Paul is like in the second great prayer of Ephesians found in chapter 3, verses 14-21. He has just written about the wonders of God’s grace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2:1-10), specifically the inclusion of Gentiles with the Jews (2:11-22), and his sacrificial ministry in that regard (3:1-13).
In light of all those wonderful things, Paul bursts forth in prayer. His prayer encompasses a threefold movement:
- prayer for strengthening of the inner being as Christ’s dwelling place;
- prayer for grasping the ultimately unknowable love of God; and
- lifting up praise to our glorious God.
Paul wants the believers to not only know God but to be completely indwelt by God in Christ. He wants them not only to have knowledge of the steadfast love of the Lord, but to be overcome by the limitless love of God lavished upon them. He wants them not only to ask God for certain things but to be completely overwhelmed by the glory of God that is accessible to them because of Jesus Christ.
The beauty of this prayer’s poetic language and expansive scope is astounding. More than dividing it up for study it is necessary that we take the words of this prayer upon our own lips and into our own hearts in personal prayer to God.
Stop for a some time to pray the words of Paul back to God one section at a time. Ask Him to strengthen you as His holy dwelling place. Ask Him to stretch your knowledge of His ultimately infinite love. Praise Him for His surpassing power and greatness. Maybe you want to write your prayer down in some form, like in a journal. Maybe you want to pray through these verses aloud with someone else. Whatever you do, let us learn to pray from Paul through actively entering into this prayer ourselves.
[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]
Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given to us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,
and in the power of your divine Majesty
to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship,
and bring us at last to see you
in your one and eternal glory, O Father;
who with the Son and the Holy Spirit
live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day in the church calendar one week after Pentecost dedicated to celebrating the wonder of “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” (to use a phrase from an old hymn).
For the Christian there is no doubt that the doctrine of the Trinity is both the revelation of God’s character and being, but also the necessary shape of our faith and worship. If you would like to read more deeply about the Trinity, here is a bibliography I’ve developed on the topic, as well as a teaching outline on the historical development of the doctrine.
Maybe it’s a also good time to re-watch the three-part series I preached last Fall at Eastbrook on the Trinity. You can view or listen to the messages here:Read More »