Summary: As we pray for the unity of the body of Christ, pray for power, for love, and for the fullness of God Himself.
At a wedding rehearsal in Concord, California, the pastor was explaining the symbolism of the unity candle. “After the middle candle is lit,” he said, “blowing out the two side candles means the two become one.”
“Oh,” someone in the wedding party exclaimed. “I thought it meant ‘no more flames!’” (Greg Asimakoupoulos, “Rolling Down the Aisle,” Christian Reader)
Don’t you wish that were true? Don’t you wish a simple ceremony would take away all the conflict so people could live together in perfect harmony?
So far, in the book of Ephesians, we’ve learned that God has brought us all together in one body. We’ve learned that the blood of Christ has broken down all the barriers between us, and that we are now ONE in Christ. But the living out of that unity is not so easy, is it? Sometimes, there is a little friction in our relationships, and there might even be plenty of “flames” at times.
So how do we make it work? How do we live out the unity that is ours in Christ? How do we put it into practice without so many flames? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians 3, Ephesians 3, where we have a prayer for unity.
Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named… (ESV)
Because God brought us together in one Body, and because God brought us together in one Family, the Apostle Paul gets on his knees before the Father. After all, when you bring Jew and Gentile together, Black & white, slave & free, rich & poor, young & old, Republicans & Democrats, and especially Wildcat & Jayhawk fans, when you bring all these people together, you have the potential for a lot of conflict.
It’s like tying two cats together by the tail. You might have union, but certainly not unity. So it is in the church. God has brought all kinds of people together in one body, but getting us to work together is going to take a lot of prayer.
And therein lies the key to living out the unity that is ours in Christ. Therein lies the key to making our differences work for us rather than against us. The key is prayer. Prayer is the bridge, which links the doctrinal section of this book (chapters 1-3) to the practical section of this book (chapters 4-6). Prayer is what turns our beliefs into behavior. Prayer is what turns doctrine into doing. Prayer is what turns the principle of unity into the practice of unity.
If we’re going to live out our oneness in Christ, then like the Apostle Paul, we must get on our knees before the Father and beg Him for all the help we can get. We cannot do it on our own. We desperately need God’s help to make our church work without going down in flames.
The question is: What do we pray for? What do we ask God for that will help us work together for His glory? Well, look at verse 16, where we have Paul’s first request in his prayer for unity. He prays…
Ephesians 3:16-17a …that according to the riches of [God’s] glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… (ESV)
Literally, so that Christ may settle down and feel at home in your hearts. The word implies taking possession of a home or dwelling, and is actually used in some contexts of demon possession (Matthew 12:45 & Luke 11:26).
Did you ever say to someone, “Make yourself at home”? If you really meant it, that person could rearrange all the furniture, repaint all the walls, and eat all your food. When someone truly makes themselves at home, they live in that home like they own the place.
Well, that’s what we want Christ to do in our hearts. As believers, we know that He already lives in our hearts, but we want Him to make Himself feel at home in our hearts. We want Him to live there like He owns the place. We want Him to take possession of our hearts and become the controlling influence of all our attitudes and actions.
Isn’t that right? Don’t we want His love and grace to permeate all of our relationships? If that’s the case, then like Paul, we must…
PRAY FOR POWER.
We must pray for God’s strength in our inner being. We must ask God to fortify us on the inside so we can love people on the outside.
Our son, Peter, as a nuclear technician for the Navy, was for several years stationed on a nuclear sub, called the Annapolis, based in Connecticut. During those years, our interest in nuclear submarines peaked.