A Thanksgiving Prayer Letter to Family & Friends
(and anyone else who wants to read it)
[Inspired by Ephesians 3:14-19]
For this reason… [v14a]
The Apostle Paul (author of Ephesians) had a reason for everything that he did. The early part of his life was lived doing all he could to destroy Christianity, and his reason for that was that he thought God wanted Him to destroy Christianity. Trouble is, Paul had not actually met God personally to ask Him. Meeting God personally is essential for all of us – even those of us who think we have been faithful Christians faithfully following God for decades. Are our hard and fast reasons for living the way we do actually based on a face to face meeting with truth, or are we driven by a deadly mixture of truth and lie? Before Paul ‘saw the Light’, he certainly knew a lot about God – more, in fact, than most if not all of us know now. He was a very, very religious person – following the law to the very best of his ability. Does that describe us? Sadly, the best of our ability is worthless before a perfect God, and understanding that was the key that transformed Saul to Paul. He met God on the road to Damascus, and instantly knew that although his reason (God wanted him) had been right, his reasoning (God wanted him to do something) had been deeply flawed.
…I bow my knees before the Father,…[v14b]
God wants US. He doesn’t want or need what we can DO. Yes, after we completely submit our lives to Him, He does indeed give us work to do for Him – something that will continue throughout eternity. But the work that we do for Him has nothing at all to do with meeting His standards and becoming acceptable to Him. That is the fatal mistake Paul was making as he scurried around Judea stoning Christians. Saul desperately wanted to be acceptable to God, and was doing his best to meet God’s approval by smearing this upstart, blasphemous religion into the ground. According to Saul’s Judaism, there is only one God (true), and it is a terrible thing worthy of punishment for anyone who is not God to claim to be God (true). So therefore, this Jesus and his motley crew were all guilty and deserving of death. Saul needed to have his spiritual eyes opened to the fact that ‘this Jesus’ was the ultimate fulfillment of thousands of prophecies that litter the Jewish scriptures (Christian Old Testament). For hundreds and hundreds of years, Jewish prophets had been writing about a Messiah that would come. Well – come He did. But because His first coming was all about defeating the SPIRITUAL rather than PHYSICAL enemy, the Jews rejected Him. All they and Saul were looking for was someone to rally the Jewish troops and slap their Roman oppressors back into the stone age. They thought that they could take care of the spiritual side of things themselves.
…from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,…[v15]
We can’t take care of the spiritual side of things ourselves. We are all part of God’s family. Some of us are estranged and still need to be restored back to being God’s children and heirs, but we are all – like it or not – part of His family. He created us, and He is our Father. Just as every human (imperfect) father should provide his children with boundaries, rules and instructions – a framework around which his children can build a life that is secure and productive and meaningful – so God gave humanity as a whole a framework on which to build. And He also gave humanity the freedom to choose whether to use that framework or not. True love is NEVER forced, and that alone explains why bad things happen. Bad things happen because God truly, deeply, eternally loves us and would never force us to follow Him. He is the perfect Father – leading by perfect example, but never coercing, bribing, demanding or otherwise imposing Himself upon His children in order to gain their submission. And because of His perfect love, He has allowed us to go our own way into brokenness, corruption, despair and death. And once something is broken – it cannot ‘unbreak’ itself. Once we are spiritually dead, we cannot bring ourselves back to life. Our only hope is that our Father loves us enough to forgive our rebellion and find a way to restore us to Himself. We are God’s family, and He wants a relationship WITH us, rather than a religion FROM us.
…that according to the riches of His glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being,…[v16]
This is where the jaw of a bible-believing person starts making its way to the floor. YES, this life on earth can be horrible, painful, brutal… YES we ALL to some extent or another experience things that make (or should make) us cry on a daily basis. We have all struggled with grief, loss, pain and fear. But this Thanksgiving, I for one shout out to God with eternal gratitude that He HAS NOT simply left us to wallow in our own muck, but has reached out to us with the RICHES OF HIS GLORY! He wants to strengthen our inner beings with HIS power through HIS Spirit! Today, if you are running from God, don’t believe in God, or a combination of those two – then no wonder you are finding it hard to be truly thankful. Life is IMPOSSIBLE to bear without God’s strength. Asking for and receiving that strength on a daily basis is one of the countless proofs of the true Christian faith. He gives true JOY in the heart of those of His children who willingly and freely submit their lives to Him. Is that joy visible in your life today? Is it visible in MY life today?
…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith –[v17a]
This is my simple prayer for all those who read this (and of course those who don’t!). May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. Please, please PLEASE ask God for the GIFT of faith if you have never done so. Faith is not something we conjure up in our mind. It is a GIFT. God reaches out to EVERYONE, offering something that money cannot buy and sweat cannot earn. He is offering the eternally and infinitely precious gift of His Son’s LIFE to you. God incarnate died so that you may live. Ask Him today – right now – for enough faith to believe that. Your life WILL be transformed.
… –that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength 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,…[v18-19a]
God has a perfect sense of humor. He knew that inspiring Paul to pray a prayer for us to know something and then to tell us it is unknowable would make our heads spin. And that is the whole point. If we rely on OUR heads to work this out – we will fall off a mental cliff and spend the rest of our lives trying to work out how the stars we see flying past came into existence. Was there nothing in the beginning, or was there some sort of quantum energy field? If we stretch out time to billions rather than millions of years, will there have been enough time for the first chemical to randomly evolve into a human being and the rest of life as we know it? No. He made the stars also, and He wants us to look at His universe through HIS eyes. Only then can we know the unknowable. Only then can we truly start to be thankful. Only after we have been rooted and grounded in love – and not just any old glandular, feeling driven, selfish love. Rooted and grounded in the love of CHRIST. We need God’s strength in our hearts in order for those roots to sink in. There is no other way.
…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.[v19b]
There is no way round it. This is an insane prayer. Filled with all the fullness of God? If you are a Christian already – are you filled with all the fullness of God? If not, get on your knees and pray. If you are not a Christian already, then you have no idea what this means. Do you want to find out? Pray! In other words, we all need to be praying – all of the time. And we need to be doing so with an attitude of desperate humility and sincere thankfulness for a Father God who loves us so much that He allows us to walk such a painful road along the way to finding Him. There are no strings attached, either to us, or to the gift God wants to give us.
May you all bless God this Thanksgiving.