This past week marked the 19th year since the most shocking and devastating day our country has endured since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. On September 11, 2001, the nation found itself confronted with a common enemy whose hatred was not limited to demographic specifics like ethnic backgrounds, economic status, party affiliation, religious preference, or skin color. Just living here was enough to make anyone a target for death. Those conditions set in motion a common response throughout the land . . . people prayed.
A Powerful Incentive ~
Personal and national prayer rose in prominence after the 9/11 attacks to a level not seen since WWII. The graphic examples of senseless, wholesale death and destruction created a sense of dependence upon God and a commitment to prayer greater than years of Sunday morning sermons had ever produced. There’s something about having an enemy committed to our personal annihilation and the destruction of our nation’s heritage that leads people to look for a power beyond themselves. Many in this freshly unified nation prayed more openly, more often, and with more zeal than ever before.
But that was 19 years ago, and things have changed. We’ve had a few more incidents of terrorism on our soil since then, but nothing like what took place on 9/11. The imminent threat was removed, and life gradually got back to normal. That’s nice. The sense of desperation driving those prayers of repentance and pleas for God’s intervention gradually dissipated, and as it did, the urgency to pray dissipated as well.
A Different Picture ~
Regardless of how the change unfolded, it’s obvious that our national deference to prayer now is not what it was 19 years ago. In many public gatherings, prayer has been replaced by a nondescript “moment of silence”. Perhaps the “silence” deified in those “moments” has become more acceptable because for a long time, silence has already filled that sanctified space once occupied by impassioned prayer. And maybe the impact of that silence is being felt in the anarchy plaguing so many of our inner cities. Prayer’s mute replacement may have been a factor allowing a nation once unified and committed to defending our national heritage and way of life to become more divided and violent than ever. The nation we once knew and the way of life we treasure are more vulnerable today than they have been in our lifetime. We need a resurgence of prayer, but not just those ritualistic regurgitations of pious platitudes that we’ve heard over the years. We need strategically focused prayers with world changing potential.
Thankfully, God has not left us without instruction as to what prayers like that would look like. One of the most powerful, profound, and strategically effective prayers in the New Testament was uttered by the Apostle Paul and recorded in Ephesians 3:14-21. There is no way in this limited space that we could begin to explore its depth. Instead, our purpose here is to highlight some of the basic principles that we desperately need to apply today.
Not a Time for Small Talk ~
Paul begins by making it clear that what he is about to say to God is driven by a purpose that goes beyond superficial issues and normally recurring problems. He was about to unload the deep and abiding desire of his heart before the very throne of Almighty God. His concern was not about himself or his imprisonment. This prayer was not about external pressures. It was about internal possibilities. It was focused on unleashing a force that could change the world.
Worlds aren’t changed unless people are changed, and that rarely happens because external circumstances are adjusted. Better houses, for instance, don’t make us better people. More money doesn’t make us more considerate and compassionate toward others. Acquiring the latest gadgets doesn’t make us more generous and kind, and wearing the latest fashion trends won’t bring us love or make us more loving. The things that change people were the objectives in Paul’s prayer and each of them begins with the little word, that.
- Strategic Objective One:
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (Eph. 3:16, KJV)
Worlds are changed when weak people become strong, and Paul knew that those he wanted to see become world changers would need strength beyond themselves. Paul wanted God to give them strength that was excessive, strength that was commensurate with the overflowing riches of God’s glory. That’s an astounding thing to ask, but Paul wanted the followers of Jesus to have power on the inside that would reign supreme over any challenge launched from the outside.
- Strategic Objective Two:
…That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; (Eph. 3:17, KJV)
World changers can’t do it alone. Without Jesus, we’re nothing but fodder for the devil’s grist mill, but when Jesus shows up, everything changes. Presuppositions are proven worthless, doubts and fears disappear, and the wisdom of the world becomes foolish. When Jesus shows up, lame people walk, blind people see, deaf people hear, and impossible things become possible. When the followers of Jesus showed up, Paul wanted Jesus to show up with them. Anything less would be hopeless and ultimately doomed.
- Strategic Objective Two:
- Strategic Objective Three:
...That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, (Eph. 3:17b-19a, KJV)
Transient emotions do not produce world changers. They are motivated by a love that is deeply rooted and unquenchable. Those who exhibit the incredible courage that changes the course of history are empowered by a love that extends far beyond the fleeting and unstable passions common in the world. The love that drives them reaches into all that they are in every direction and in every part of their lives, and Jesus Christ is the only fountain from which love like that flows.
- Strategic Objective Three:
- Strategic Objective Four:
...That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:19b, KJV)
The world isn’t changed by half-way, part-time people. God’s world changers are able to commit all they have because the One they serve committed everything He had for them. Paul wanted the followers of Jesus to be reminded that God was withholding nothing from them, and that He was directly and personally involved in all that they would do. It may be inspirational to see someone totally committed to God, but realizing that God is willing to be totally committed to us creates world changing possibilities.
- Strategic Objective Four:
It’s time for us, like Paul, to show up before the very throne of Almighty God and plead with Him to produce world changers again. It’s time to deliver prayers that can change the course of history. Prayers like Paul’s have done more than preserve nations, prayers like his have led to delivering untold billions of souls from the burden of sin and the bondage of tyrants. The courage inspired by prayers like Paul’s have led ordinary men and women to stand against the most overwhelming odds and emerge victorious. Threats of persecution and death have been proven impotent against prayers like this. The power of faith exploding from prayers like this have pushed back darkness and evil for thousands of years, and we desperately need to lift this one off the pages of the Bibles and put it to work now. May God grant us the grace to be a part of a resurgence of prayer that will change the future for all of us.
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“We need a resurgence of prayer, but not just those ritualistic regurgitations of pious platitudes that we’ve heard over the years. We need strategically focused prayers with world changing potential.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Paul was about to unload the deep and abiding desire of his heart before the very throne of Almighty God. His prayer was about internal possibilities, focused on unleashing a force that could change the world.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Those who exhibit the incredible courage that changes the course of history are empowered by a love that reaches into all that they are in every direction and in every part of their lives. Jesus Christ is the only fountain from which love like that flows.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“It’s time for us, like Paul, to show up before the very throne of Almighty God and plead with Him to produce world changers again. It’s time to deliver prayers that can change the course of history.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“The power of faith exploding from prayers like Paul’s have pushed back darkness and evil for thousands of years, and we desperately need to lift this one off pages of the Bible and put it to work now.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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