Act of Worship at Home
Reading Ephesians 3:14-21
Prayer for the Readers
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 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, for ever and ever. Amen.
In 1952 J.B. Phillips wrote a book with the provocative title Your God is Too Small. He said: “The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs.” He was right.
If Philips were writing today, he might title his book Your God is Too Small– and Too Distant. He might say: “The challenge for many people today is finding a God who is big enough to embrace the world and close enough to fill their inner emptiness.”
A small and distant god leaves us feeling overwhelmed by change and threatened by emptiness. We’re living through a time of massive transition and change. Some of the changes bewilder and frustrate us; others amaze and delight us. Whether we consider them “positive” or “negative,” the shifts keep happening and the ground beneath our feet doesn’t feel solid. All the while, we’re also trying to cope with more immediate and personal changes: illness, family crises, challenges at work and school, the limitations imposed by aging, and inevitable transitions brought on by the simple passing of time.
Maybe that’s how things are for you now. I know there are a lot of people who are struggling with everything life is throwing at them at the moment.
Thankfully, as Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians reminds us, we don’t have a small and distant god. The real God, revealed to us in the history of Israel and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is magnificent, mysterious, and mighty. Paul prayed:
I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the 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.
The real God is vast beyond our comprehending, beautiful beyond our appreciating, and wonderful beyond our imagining. God encompasses everything: past, present and future; near and far; what we have discovered and what remains hidden. God is above and beyond, among and within, high and holy, close and compassionate.
God’s great love leaves us breathless with astonishment. Paul prayed that we would know what he admitted was beyond knowing: the breadth and length and height and depth of love. It includes everyone and everything, radiates with a redeeming grace which envelops all our shame and guilt, and shines with a dazzling glory which fills every shadowy corner of our hearts and of the universe with hope.
Thankfully, this prayer isn’t a list of assignments for us to carry out or expectations to meet or demands to shoulder. The God who has been made known and real to us in Jesus isn’t standing over us with a clipboard and a checklist. There is nothing in this prayer that hints at a self-help project or a self-improvement regimen.
The prayer simply and compellingly invites us to realize how much God loves us–to experience God’s surrounding, encompassing, and holding us with love. And it promises us that God will fill us when we are empty, make us strong when we are weak, and keep us rooted and grounded when everything is changing.
I invite you to experience this prayer for yourself. Ask God to thrill you again with a sense of wonder and majesty, to fill you with God’s own life, and to show you all you can comprehend about the wide embrace of divine love. Receive God’s strength, so that you may live faithfully and joyfully in these challenging times of change. Open yourself to God’s fullness, so that the once-empty places in you may overflow with abundance and glory. We have a vast, loving, and powerful God who is “at work within us” and “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. To that God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
Time of Prayer
Response after each bidding:
Lord, we pray that they/we might be rooted and established in love.
We pray for the homeless,
that they will have opportunities to find a place to stay, and to get back their sense of self-worth…
We pray for the unemployed,
that they will have opportunities to gain necessary skills, and not feel that society doesn’t care…
We pray for anyone in our church family
going through hard times; help us to help them, and to show them your love…
We pray for anyone who is sick or suffering,
anyone feeling withered or drained of the life blood they need…
We pray for anyone who does not know your love,
that you will bring them into contact with a branch of your tree.
Lord, we pray that they might be rooted and established in love.
Hymn StF 503 – Love divine, all loves excelling
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesu, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.
Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.
Finish then Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise!
Lord, keep us focused on your loving, generous nature, so that we can freely share what we have and who we are. Let us be cheerful givers and humble receivers, that all may have enough and be satisfied, that we and those we meet may know your blessings. Amen.