Pray to "Know"
Updated: Jan 9
When Dietrich Bonhoeffer visited the Bethel Community in the thick of Nazi Germany, he stumbled upon a community marked by compassion, love, and generosity. Established to care for the physically & mentally disabled, Bethel grew from a small house of a few individuals into a small “city” comprised of schools, hospitals, shops, and homes. This new community stood in resistance to the dominant cultural voice that misused its "power" to oppress the vulnerable, and instead, exalted the weakest among them as worthy of greatest honor, care, and dignity. Bonhoeffer called Bethel a “fairy tale landscape" of grace. In the middle of Nazi Germany this community was as upside down as it was peculiar.
We might think that 2020 Long Island becoming a "fairy tale landscape" like that of Bethel is simply unrealistic. But Jesus’s announcement of the Kingdom of God having arrived tells a different story. Jesus announced that under His reign, we would discover that the “upside down” world Bonhoeffer found at Bethel was right side up all along and there's more to come! It's His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul prays that followers of King Jesus would KNOW a few things about this new “fairy tale-like” kingdom that God is bringing to reality in our world. He seemed to believe that if we would allow these 3 things to really penetrate our hearts & minds, they would naturally permeate the way we live. And once that happens, the Kingdom of God would shine brightly a little more with each new day.
So what is it Paul believed we need to "know"? He prayed this in Ephesians 1:
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may:
(1) KNOW THE HOPE to which he has called you,
(2) KNOW THE RICHES OF HIS GLORIOUS INHERITANCE in his holy people, and
(3) KNOW HIS INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER for us who believe.
That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” [Eph. 1:15-23]
There are places we have not been and things we have not seen, and yet we believe them to be real. The Northern Lights, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls. Even if we’ve never been, they sound amazing and, believing they exist, many of us will venture toward them on vacation one day. The hope we’ve been called to is a vision for something we cannot yet see, but we know exists. “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have (see)?” [Rom 8]. There is a better Suffolk County out there, though we don’t yet see it. There’s a better [insert your town here] out there, though we don’t yet see it. There’s a better version of your family out, there though we don’t yet see it. There’s a better, future version of you out there, though we don’t yet see it. Paul is praying that we would KNOW the reality of this unseen thing to be true. To have hope. Could it be that having such a hope deep within changes how we live which, in turn, brings about the very new reality we hope for?
KNOW WE ARE GOD’S PEOPLE.
(i.e. “the riches of his glorious inheritance”).
The epic story of the Bible tells of a God who saw a broken humanity and refused to let it implode in the mess of its own making. So God stepped into our reality by first making a promise to one particular group of people through whom he intended to bless all peoples of all nations. When Jesus stepped onto the scene, he declared that this promise was fulfilled - he brought “good news of great joy for all people” that the right side up kingdom had come to fix that which was broken. Paul prayed that we’d know that the inheritance of enjoying God’s presence and bearing him to all the world which was initially promised to one people (Israel), is now the inheritance that belongs to us all. That in the gospel we are all God’s chosen people and bear his presence to everything we touch. Could it be that knowing we are God’s people (recipients and bearers of his inheritance) would affect the way we live in such a way that brings this new world to reality?
KNOW HIS GREAT POWEr.
We generally think of “power” as the ability to accomplish that which we desire. A "powerful" person has the authority to get things done the way they see fit. And since we’re naturally selfish, power is often exercised at the expense of the vulnerable. The weak oppress the weaker still. Oppression breeds more oppression. But Paul's prayer redefines power. He prays for us to know that we have the power that "raised Christ from the dead" in us. Simply stated, we have in Christ the power to bring wholeness to that which is broken. To bring restoration to that which is rusted. To bring death to life. When Jesus announced the arrival of a new Kingdom on earth in his appearance, the lame walked, the blind received sight, and the marginalized were lifted up. Before he left earth, he tapped his followers (you and me!) to be the bearers of that restoration now - in his power. It reorients our understanding of power to what it really is: a source of strength outside our ourselves that exists not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others to bring death to life. That very power is IN US. If we knew it, how would that affect our view of the world and our role in it?
THIS WEEK'S PRACTICE:
This week, we will pray that God would grow in us a deep rooted knowledge that WE HAVE HOPE, WE ARE HIS PEOPLE, and WE HAVE HIS POWER. Pray this for yourself, pray this for our community, pray this for all people everywhere. As we consider how knowing these things might permeate how we live, let's pray for strength to live it out!
Knowing HOPE might mean less anxiety about the future we haven't seen because we know God is bringing about a better version of you by working in you.
Knowing WE ARE HIS PEOPLE might mean that we approach our family, friends, and co-workers with love & generosity as God's chosen people who bear his character to them.
Knowing WE HAVE HIS POWER might bring us confidence in tumultuous times because the power of light in us is greater than the power of darkness around us.
Let's pray over these things and listen to how God speaks to us.