“What do you want?” (John 1:38) Those are Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of John, His question of those who would leave everything to follow Him. Jesus did not ask what they believed or what they did, but what they really wanted, what they were seeking in life.
This daily prayer devotional is about what people really want, what they are seeking. Look around, and you will see hungry and thirsty people wanting more. We feverishly chase after money, power, position, pleasure, and come up empty every time. That is because it is God whom our hearts really want. And that is what this prayer devotional is about – God and you!
Stamped by God with His very image, carrying within the God-shaped vacuum, we will not be satisfied with anything short of God. We have needs far beyond the universe. Dogs, dolphins, and chimpanzees are content with just the physical, but not us humans. We alone, standing atop the pinnacle of God’s magnificent creation, are made for God and communion with Him.
That is why prayer is so important! Prayer is essential for our very being and fulfillment. God hardwired us, fashioning us to want; and to want mightily! Prayer is our hearts’ expression of longing for God. This deep longing is given expression by the psalmist:
“As a deer longs for flowing streams,Psalm 42:1-2
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.”
The good news is that God also longs for you and me! The mighty Sovereign and Lord of heaven and earth actually longs for us to then long for Him: not because He needs us, not because He is lonely, but because He is boundless self-giving love. God delights in giving. It was from out of His fathomless love that He created us and yearned for intimacy with us. Through prayer, we encounter God’s longing for us.
This daily prayer devotional is different from how I once would have written. There was a time I thought of prayer as asking God for help with problems and needs. Prayer was for presenting to God my list of requests: “Do this!” and “Do that!” Certainly, that is a part of prayer, but only a part. It was then that Oswald Chambers in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, spoke to my heart’s longing: “Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look at prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”
I decided to learn from the apostle Paul how to pray. Reaching across centuries and cultures, I wanted ‘the Bible idea of prayer.’ I was sure there was no better prayer mentor than Paul, no one more capable to teach us about prayer.
Immediately after Paul’s “road to Damascus experience” and encounter with Jesus, the first thing we see him doing is praying (Acts 9:10-11). Paul began his Christian life praying, and tradition tells us he ended it praying on a Roman chopping block. Read the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters, and see how his life and ministry were shaped by prayer! Again, and again, we find Paul praying and asking others to pray for him and with him. This is perhaps the secret to the power and effectiveness of his life across centuries.
I seek to present to you this devotional in the spirit of the martyred Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he wrote about the importance of linking our prayers to Scripture:
“We have already said that the most promising method of prayer is to allow oneself to be guided by the word of the Scriptures, to pray on the basis of a word of Scripture. In this way, we shall not become the victim of our own emptiness. Prayer means nothing else but the readiness and willingness to receive and appropriate the Word…And we are certain that our prayer will be heard because it is a response to God’s Word and promise.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)
The plan, then, of this prayer devotional is to daily follow Paul as he prays in Ephesians 3:16-21. This prayer is a good summary of the way Paul likes to pray. It is a marvelous prayer, perhaps a surprising prayer, as Paul asks God for big things. It is a prayer rising up from a heart longing for God.
Here is Paul’s prayer. Why not take a few moments to read and reflect on it:
“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
The first two days of this devotional reflect on the context of Paul’s prayer, the following days focus on a line or lines of Paul’s prayer. Each day’s reading concludes with a “Thought for Today”, then “My Prayer for Today”. In this prayer, following the lead that day of Paul’s inspired prayer, you are invited to talk with God.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
“No one is easier to talk to than God.” William Barclay