Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
Ephesians draws us to another thread of truth about what standing firm in the faith might mean.
It’s all about prayer – it’s source and context. The source involves the most staggering interaction captured in this short verse. Prayer is from within; it is that offering up – in glorious language, stumbling silence, or anguished groans – of all we would share with, and hope to receive from, God. Prayer is our ongoing conversation with our creator and redeemer; our source, guide and goal. It comes from the powers of our minds and the deep wells of our hearts. It can be laughter and tears. It can carry passion and hold fear. It cannot ever be just about me, or just from you. If it is, then prayer has slipped into something less, something self-centred. God save us from that. And, writes Paul, God has.
We pray: “in the Spirit at all times in every prayer…” Here’s the source. The assurance and promise is that, as we turn to Christ, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our praying is no solo effort, no private assault upon the hiding place of a distant God. The Spirit is God’s assurance that we have already found our true home within God’s love. The Spirit abides in each of us, breathing with us as we breathe into the silences and give ourselves to the words. Prayer is part of God’s collaboration with us in friendship. We cannot pray alone because, in prayer, the Spirit is.
This is prayer’s context. It isn’t about me – it’s about us. As we live out our witness we need help that ultimately comes from God. We play our part by responding to God through praying for one another. Just as the Spirit is the agent at work in my praying, so I become part of the symphony of prayers offering others into God’s grace and mercy. Prayer reminds me that I belong to God. There is more; prayer reminds us that we belong to one another.
Merciful God, hear our prayers for your creation. Hear our anguish at its agonies. Hear our thanksgiving for its treasures. Merciful God, hear our prayers for your people. Hear our anguish at their agonies. Hear our thanksgiving for their treasures. Merciful God, hear our prayers. For you have taught us to pray and shown us your way, through your Spirit, in Christ’s name. Amen.
The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge