Paul teaches the Ephesians about Spiritual warfare, the armor of God, and then says, “Pray always.”
In Ephesians 3:18 Paul asks for prayer for himself and others: “… Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
In the above passage, Paul seems to be sharing a bit of his heart, maybe a struggle that he has and knows he needs support and encouragement in. Do you hear his struggle? He’s asking for prayer that he would have words and boldness. But why would Paul (a man who seemed to be so eloquent with words and a bold proclaimer of the gospel) hesitate to proclaim “the mystery of the gospel…” boldly?
Well, perhaps, he’s getting a bit weary of suffering. In chapter three he said, “I don’t want you to lose heart over what I am suffering for you.” Maybe, he was scared to suffer. Maybe he was scared to die. Maybe, through the fear of death, the powers that be were trying to shut Paul up. And yet, Paul wrote, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain, and my imprisonment has really served to advance the gospel.”
When Martin Luther gave his first Mass, he barely made it. He was utterly terrified at the mystery. He thought: “Who am I to offer the blood of Christ, the blood that is the judgment of this world, and the life of this world? Who am I to offer the blood that flows from the throne? Who is sufficient for these things?” Thankfully, Martin Luther discovered Saint Paul.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16) Then he writes, “Therefore, having received this ministry, by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1).
If we thought we alone had to be sufficient for all that we encounter on our journey with Christ, we’d have a heart attack.
So, why did Paul need prayer? Because he really couldn’t do it. He really needed to trust that God does do it. And even that is a gift of Grace. He needed faith.
I bet, like all of us, at times he was scared to do it; maybe he thought he couldn’t do it; maybe he thought he shouldn’t do it. I bet, at times, the devil whispered to Saul, “Who are you to preach this gospel of grace? You’re the chief of sinners.”
In Romans 7, Paul writes,
“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Oh wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus our Lord.”
Paul knew that to preach grace to others, he needed to trust grace for himself and that itself was a work of God, or it wouldn’t be grace. So, Paul implores them: “Pray for me! Pray for me…that I preach the mystery boldly and that I don’t lose heart.”
You know, the heart is a pump, and it runs on the very thing it pumps. The blood flows through the heart, but it must also feed the heart.
Sometimes we can be quite good at speaking the truth but we don’t always live in that truth for ourselves. Sometimes we preach grace for others but we don’t always believe it for ourselves. When we speak out God’s grace and truth but forget to let it flow into our own heart we can feel worn out, depleted, and empty.
God desires that we would love others from His heart, and in order to do that, we need to abide in it. It’s like Scripture says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” He is the heart; we are the veins, and in order to be vessels of His love, of His heart, we need to be permanently affixed to Him and His heart—not only for all the world, but also for ourselves.
Maybe it was quite easy for Paul to believe God loves all and forgives all; maybe it was quite easy for him to believe the grace of God for others but a bit of a struggle to believe it for himself—the self-declared “chief of all sinners.” Can you relate to that?
I know I do, and I think it’s because I’m not really that proud of other people, but I am proud of myself. And the principalities and powers encourage me to play that game of being proud of myself and then condemning myself until I’m finally trapped in myself.
Why am I so hard on myself? Because I’m so proud of myself. But now…if I condemn myself it’s just more of myself…damming and damning the flow of God’s Grace into me: Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Who will deliver us from these bodies of death? “Praise be to God. God in Christ Jesus!” He undams and undamns that flow by shedding His very own blood, which reestablishes the flow.
There are parts of our hearts that try to pump the blood without drinking the blood, but Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” We cannot last long if we try to preach the mystery of the gospel without tapping into the source of Life—the one who is Life. We cannot effectively pour the mystery of the gospel—the truth of God’s relentless grace for everyone—into others without letting it first flow into the depths of our own hearts.
But we struggle to allow God’s Grace to flow into us and through us out to others, and at times we are like a blood clot that can end up blocking the flow of Life in His Body. Who will deliver us from these bodies of death? Who will deliver us from our own wills? We can’t just decide to drink grace or it’s not grace. Grace is a miracle. So, who will deliver us? Praise be to God. God in Christ Jesus delivers us from these bodies of death!
“In 33 AD, at the boundary of time and eternity, God in Christ Jesus undammed the clot, and He undamned the damnation. At the cross, He condemned sin in the flesh; He gave All of us life.
You are eternally OK and seated in heavenly places in Christ. And God is revealing the wonder of that mystery in space and time. Even your sin reveals the wonder of His Grace. Even your unbelief will reveal the wonder of God’s redemption.
So, receive His gift. If you struggle, like Paul, like me, ask others to pray for you, and then drink deeply from the river of God’s Grace—not only for others but for All . . . and that includes you!
*This devotional was written by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It was inspired by the sermon “Prayer For Proclaiming the Mystery.” To read, watch or listen to that sermon in its entirety visit here: “Prayer For Proclaiming the Mystery.”
Discussion questions for this devotional are available here: Discussion Questions “Prayer For Proclaiming the Mystery”