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Ephesians 6:18

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Benchmarks | Prayer

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
— Ephesians 6:18

I have never been content with my prayer life. 

Please note, I say content. I do pray, and often too – as I hope you might as well. It's a sense of not being satisfied with this simple-yet-complex devotional discipline that I am writing about here though. There's something about it that just always leaves me feeling like I haven't got there yet.

When I read what Paul writes here to the Ephesian church in this Benchmark, it can seem like a big ask, but for Paul it's meant to be the most normal thing in the whole world. Let me explain:

Paul has grown up in a culture where the presence of God was found in a special room within a temple. This temple was the temple found in Jerusalem, and in the temple was a room called the Holy of Holies – a room behind a curtain, where access was strictly forbidden to only the cleanest-of-clean, the highest priest on the Day of Atonement.

Now, if you've read the story of Jesus before, you might remember that the moment he died on his cross, a curtain in the temple was torn – that curtain was this curtain. It's tearing symbolised that the presence of God was now no longer stuck in just this place, but was now bursting forth to be found with the new priests, in the new temples: God's Church, His people. (Read: Us.)

And so Paul, because this is what he thinks of when he thinks of this new place of God's Spirit, says that we are what that room in the temple used to be used for all the time: a place of God's presence.

The story of the scriptures tell us that we are the new royal priesthood, the people who are on the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God breaking into the world. ... Looking at that job-profile, I realise that we always have something to do and unfortunately we will never be fully satisfied this side of heaven. Prayer becomes one of the roads we live all of this out on.

Which brings me back to that feeling of being discontent. Being discontent about prayer is actually all about being discontent about something far bigger - our entire relationship with God and our place in His story. The story of the scriptures tell us that we are the new royal priesthood, the people who are on the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God breaking into the world. In this new thing God is doing, we are to be the people who are to intercede for others, to worship and glorify God, to do acts of justice in the world and to live holy and blameless lives. Looking at that job-profile, I realise that we always have something to do and unfortunately we will never be fully satisfied this side of heaven. Prayer becomes one of the roads we live all of this out on.

So how could you walk this road another step?

Well, there's something very simple you could do next time you notice something spring up around you. Maybe a friend reports to you a sickness, or another looks really tired. Maybe someone has a big decision to make, or someone else might be struggling with something. Another friend may have great news to celebrate. No matter what the scenario, here's seven words you could say that would sum up Paul's challenge in Ephesians 6:18:

"Can I pray for you, right now?"

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