A Prayer to Unite
By: Rev. Phil Dieke, Associate Pastor of Disciple and Digital Ministry

Have you ever walked in on somebody in the middle of a prayer? Or maybe you’ve seen the awkward encounter between a waiter and people praying before a meal? There is an unwritten rule that states “when somebody else is praying you stay quiet and don’t interrupt.” Because who are you to interrupt a conversation with God, right?

This is not the type of prayer we find in Ephesians 3:16-19. In the middle of this epistle, or sermon, or exhortation (scholars not only argue over the author of Ephesians, but also the specific genre) we find this prayer: 

16 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, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

This is not a prayer that is said in private. Not a prayer expecting to be uttered interruption free. No, this is a prayer that is meant to be read aloud, specifically in the midst of conflict and/or trouble. A prayer that, like Ephesians as a whole, is intended to unite its audience. 
How are the hearers being united? 
By whom are they being unified?
The prayer tells us, it is through being rooted and grounded in love. There’s that word again: grounded. The Greek word, themelioó, literally translates “to lay the foundation of.” The author is praying the audience will be unified by laying the foundation of love. And not just any love, but the love of Christ. Love that surpasses knowledge. 
Unity isn’t going to come with knowledge: neither an agreed upon doctrine, nor intellectual prowess proving I’m right and you’re wrong. Rather, we are unified through profound love. Self-sacrificial love. Self-emptying love. Love that acknowledges and celebrates that you are not the fullness of God and I am not the fullness of God, but the fullness of God is within each and every one of us. Filling us. Making us worthy of love... and to love. 
As John Wesley is often quoted saying:
Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without a doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.

Yeah… I pray that!

Reflection questions:
  • Does reading this passage as a prayer change the way you interpret/understand it?
  • What does “being rooted and grounded in love,” mean to you? What does it look like practically?
  • There are clear divisions within our country, even our community, right now. What does unity through love look like for us?
  • How can this prayer influence the trajectory of your week?

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